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San Diego City Council Narrowly Approves Policy Update To Spur More Affordable Housing

Construction crews work on a 24-unit apartment building in North Park, July 2...

Photo by Andrew Bowen

Above: Construction crews work on a 24-unit apartment building in North Park, July 23, 2019.

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The change to the city's "inclusionary housing" policy requires developers to pay a larger share of the costs to build homes for low-income people. The measure passed 5-4, meaning it might not withstand a potential veto from Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Aired: July 31, 2019 | Transcript

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday narrowly approved a change to the city's affordable housing policy that requires developers to pay a larger share of the costs to build homes for low-income people.

The update to the so-called "inclusionary housing" policy proposed by Council President Georgette Gomez raises the fee developers pay to avoid including affordable housing in their projects. In projects where developers do include affordable units, they would have to reserve them for slightly lower-income households and charge cheaper rents.

"I know that this means that we are asking a lot more from development partners," said Councilman Chris Ward, who supported the measure. "And that's exactly why we're bringing it forward, because we've been asking a lot from low-income San Diegans for far too long and their backs are breaking."

The measure passed 5-4 with council members Mark Kersey, Chris Cate, Scott Sherman and Vivian Moreno voting "no." Moreno was the council's only Democrat to oppose the measure. Council members Barbara Bry, Monica Montgomery and Jennifer Campbell joined Gomez and Ward in supporting the measure.

RELATED: Proposed Update To City’s Affordable Housing Policy Would Change Equation For Developers

A coalition of groups, including the Building Industry Association of San Diego and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, argued the proposal would stifle development at the worst possible time, when home building is already dropping and rents and home prices continue their upward march.

Affordable housing advocates, community groups and labor unions said the proposal was reasonable. They pointed to a study commissioned by Gomez's office that found most developers could absorb the added costs without their projects getting derailed.

"It is a moderate approach to inclusionary zoning and is in line with best practices identified in the affordable housing sector," said Stephen Russell, executive director of the nonprofit San Diego Housing Federation.

Immediately after the vote, Cate and Sherman released statements calling on Mayor Kevin Faulconer to issue a veto. The council would need six votes to override such a veto, meaning at least one council member who opposed the measure would have to change their mind.

"If there is no market-rate housing, there is no funding for affordable housing," Cate said during the meeting. "The bottom line is this: In a time when we need to confront the housing challenges in front of us, this proposal is the antithesis to the solution."

Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.

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