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San Diego City Council Declares Affordable Housing Emergency For 12th Year In A Row

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August 19, 2015 1:07 p.m.

San Diego Enters 12th Year Of Affordable Housing Emergency

GUESTS:

Murtaza Baxamusa, director of planning & development, San Diego Building Trades Family Housing Corporation

Chanelle Hawken, executive director of public policy, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce

Related Story: San Diego City Council Declares Affordable Housing Emergency For 12th Year In A Row

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

his is KPBS midday edition. I am morning have enough. The city of San Diego has declared an affordable housing emergency for the 12th year in a row. And neither kind of emergency would probably not be allowed to last for over a decade. Why this one? Natalie is San Diego tens of thousands of units short of the goal for affordable homes resell. The rental market is sorry for out of reach are low income San Diegan's. Is this something San Diego wants to find solutions to or are we headed to a 13 year of emergency.
Joining me is Murtaza Baxamusa, director of planning & development, San Diego Building Trades Family Housing Corporation and Chanelle Hawken, executive director of public policy, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
You recently wrote an editorial about the ongoing housing emergency, where are we now in the need for affordable housing in comparison to the first housing emergency declaration back in 2002.
As you know, August 6, 2002, a large coalition came together to advocate on what was then called housing day for platform to essentially address the state of housing emergency. It's been about 12 years since then. Some of the key indicators, we have some reduction to show in terms of housing but in terms of key indicators, has made a difference? It appears like we're stuck where we were or sometimes sleepyhead. Homeless this is as bad as it was, renters -- rent has gone up, homeownership is continuing to slip down. In terms of the region as a whole, are not doing enough to address the state of housing emergency that we need to to address it. In all indicators, we're not those requirements.
How far behind our week in the number of estimated units that we would need to provide for low and middle income households in order to make this emergency go away?
At that time, it was estimated by 2020 we need to produce 30,000 units low and middle income families. The numbers continue to move in the same direction as in the need has not been met and it continues to grow as our country grows, our population grows. In terms of the need itself, regionally as well as within the city, it is significantly high up. The problem is also exacerbated by after the foreclosure crisis, some lost their homes. Only a quarter are going back into homeownership so they are renters. There competing with the current tenant stocks, most of which are not being able to get into the home ownership market. For a millennium between 25 and 30 years ago, as a young professional the college degree it would take 18 years before they can make a down payment for medium-sized town.
You talk about the fundamental housing affordability problem. Talk about in terms of San Diego's environment and location. How do you see that actually producing this kind of affordable housing crisis?
We are blessed because it acclimates and enclosed to the beaches. We're also landlocked between the mountains and the ocean. We have nowhere to grow. What happens is in San Diego, the primary driver of causes the value of land. What we can do with the land we have and the quality of life we have, that's why San Diego far exceeds that of other places. Which is why you got to be more concerned about the generation of affordable housing because if we don't do that consciously, require that production, we will be pricing out many working families.
Chanel, the chamber includes developers, members of the building industry. What do you think is the fundamental problem behind the act that there's not enough low income housing available in San Diego?
We see affordable housing at the chamber in terms of three different kinds of population. Versus the homeless population go combating homelessness in the housing first model is one of the top priorities this year. Downtown San Diego, the homeless population has increased 26% year-over-year. It's being felt. The lack of housing for our homeless is a huge problem for whole committee. The chamber advocates area year in DC and one of our big issues this year and last year and next year will be trying to fix the federal homeless funding formula. Right now San Diego has the fifth highest population of homeless individuals in our region. We range from 15 to 20th in terms of the cities that are getting funding. We also have subsidize housing people that are low income and very low income. We have that workforce housing they had that was talked about. We want to see our people graduating from college and engineers staying. If we can provide a market where they can purchase a home, Phoenix or other places with lower housing cost will.
So the regional chamber commerce sees affordable housing as a problem?
Yes.
The California Supreme Court just a public concept of inclusionary housing. That requires developers to include a certain number of low income units in their new residential developers. The building industry is not crazy about this. Does the chamber support the decision?
Yes. Our main focus right now is working on ways to increase housing affordability for everyone across the board. We are part of a coalition the just released a study said 40% of the development cost in the state of California and in the County of San Diego, they looked at several different jurisdictions, that was regulatory. It's very difficult to build housing in San Diego and it takes a awful long time. That's something we are really working on with the city of San Diego and other stakeholders in our region. We are starting to push if we can streamline some of those processes. We also oppose legislation that would make development downtown a lot more difficult. Particularly affordable housing. We have to look at it from both sides anything that stakeholders that are elected shows can do to help make that an easier process, I think we can make a difference.
Is regulation the problem?
I beg to differ. If you look at the cost of housing, it's primarily the cost of land. It would we give away free entitlements, we increase the cost of land itself. The prime example mentioned is downtown. They have the highest rent in the county. It's over $2000. The products being built downtown are really luxury high-rise condo towers were we're not requiring inclusionary to be built on site. User breads are unaffordable. The question really is at some point if you don't have this minimum requirements for developers to build at affordable housing, we will not see the stock we need to meet the needs for the next generation.
So far what has inclusionary housing department done for San Diego? Hasn't produced a sizable number of low income housing?
I believe so. Inclusionary housing the, I don't have exact numbers but today we are generating as part of civic San Diego itself, for projects that we approved in June generated $10 million for 1600 units. This is significant amount of contrition. What I am saying is it's not just the money but actual production of the housing itself. There's a need for balance. It used to be 15% of all units in downtown were required under redevelopment law to be affordable. Today, there's no such requirement. And concerned about downtown being just a jury high-rise condos. I'm also concerned about displacement of homeless and destruction of the single SROs which are the lower-priced hotel rooms. I'm also concerned if we do not build affordable housing and require that to be built in downtown, it will become gentrified, not just there been any surrounding neighborhoods.
Schnell, the building industry Association produced a report where he concluded that building low income housing is not economically feasible for private, for-profit builders. If private for profit builders are not going to build low-income housing, who's going to do that?
I think we have a lot of really capable of affording housing developers. Different projects, housing suited in different places. I know we supported efforts all around the county, certain jurisdiction don't like affordable housing. We supported. I will say that downtown has produced a third of our affordable housing units. In terms of making the process through civic San Diego shorter timeframe, more certainty and updated community plan, in downtown, the residents support development which unfortunately we don't see around the other areas of this city.
When talking to developers, it's very expensive. If they can't do it downtown, they are not saying they will do it in La Mesa, they say they'll go to Miami or Portland are places that make it easier to do business.
I think the inclusionary aspect, the subsidize housing as part of its. We support efforts to increase that funding. We also need to look at the workforce and see how we decrease the cost of housing. In the Lynn reserve reports, it's the last year 225,000 households were priced out of renting or owning a home. We have everyone from the homeless so that they need a place now, we have people that will never be able to probably toward the median priced home that need to have that subsidize housing and then we have our workforce that we want to be able to stay in San Diego.
With a regional Chamber of Commerce support inclusionary housing that require developers to build those units and offer them for sale at below market to low income housing rather than paying a fee that would go into a pot to build low-income housing in another location?
I think a lot of providers have their housing go -- if they build more units they could build at that particular developer. In some instances it makes sense. It's in support of a B 1335. That's from speaker Toni Atkins that's a $75 fee on commercial transactions. We have remained committed to looking at ways we can increase that affordable housing supply and increasing ease in California with our businesses is not always an easy sell but we understand that affordable housing is critical and those dollars, the city doesn't have a lot of funding that goes towards it. A broad-based the other painful for some of our businesses is really needed to provide that leverage funding to build more housing.
I don't want to leave this conversation without talking about Sandy is high price rental market. As a whole bunch of people that used to be homeowners that are now in that rental market along with people who have never owned a home. Houses tight squeeze in the rental market affecting middle and low income households.
I just want to add what was just mentioned. The assembly Bill is a centerpiece by speaker Atkins Spender -- centerpiece in terms of getting the funding we need. What is important for the renter is the disparity between wages especially low wages in the rats. It at this point, wages increased at half the rate during the last year, then rinse increased. Wages have not caught up. The problem is how do people with limited public -- pocketbooks stretch their dollars. Nothing changed in terms of the situation. That's one thing. What does that mean? It means a little over half of all renters in San Diego are paying more than 30% of their income on rent. Which means they are living on unaffordable housing. We have to do both and raise wages, for all segments of workers going all the way down to the minimum wage as well as making sure the rent did not increase that much as to price out our current workforce, especially those at the low income level.
I've a feeling the chamber is not supportive of these particular suggestions.
San Diego is expensive place to live.
The chamber recognizes the minimum wage statewide has gone up to nine dollars. Ill go up again to $10. I think being able to train our workforce and be able to get jobs that provide a letter for them to grow is certainly important. The chamber supported earned income tax credits so low income people can see more money came back to them at the end of the year.
Popout rent control?
We haven't looked at rent control. We have seen as -- our housing market and so cyclical. A few years back housing prices plummeted. Wages did not. We see this up-and-down in our housing market so we are in and up go whence have increased at an alarming rate. That's something we need to look at an endless a little bit more.
I want to thank my guests Chanelle Hawken, executive director of public policy, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and Murtaza Baxamusa, director of planning & development, San Diego Building Trades Family Housing Corporation.