San Diego named 'prohousing' city, but advocates say name doesn’t match reality
The city of San Diego was one of six cities in California to earn the state's Prohousing Designation, a recognition for committing to policies and practices that will help remove barriers to housing production.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said the designation gives San Diego an edge when applying for housing, transportation and infrastructure programs from the state.
“It opens the door to state funding that we otherwise would not be able to have access to,” Gloria said. “I believe this will give the dollars that will help us to address the infrastructure needs that this new housing requires. And this is really just a good day for our housing policies and encouragement to other cities to follow our lead.”
On Thursday, San Diego — along with Citrus Heights, Fontana, Oakland, Roseville and West Sacramento — joined Sacramento in the designation. The California Department of Housing and Community Development also announced the launch of the Prohousing Incentive Pilot Program to reward Prohousing cities.
"These communities have stepped up to implement policies that aggressively eliminate bureaucratic obstacles and drive the growth of housing throughout the state," said Gov. Gavin Newsom. "This is one of many innovative approaches the state is taking to create greater accountability and reward municipalities willing to do their part to help collectively tackle the need for more housing.
"This is the right approach and I look forward to seeing more communities join in this effort," he said.
While it earned the prohousing designation, San Diego is still well behind in building low and middle income housing units. The city also has seen further increases in homelessness.
Ricardo Flores, executive director of LISC San Diego, a nonprofit that advocates for increased housing, said San Diego’s designation doesn’t line up with the realities many are facing.
“A lot of folks out there do not feel that San Diego is prohousing because rents are high or they can't find another place to live,” he said. “Or they may be a family that wants to be homeowners so they have that certainty of a mortgage, but they can not find a home at their price point.”
Gloria said it’s not about the shortfalls of the past, but the policies now in place. He said those policies will increase affordable housing in the future.
“These are now dollars that we can compete for to get, and the good news is we're not competing against hundreds of other cities in the state of California, we’d only be competing against the handful of others that have the same designation,” he said.
Newsom's fiscal year 2019-2020 budget established the Prohousing Designation Program as part of a spectrum of support, incentives and accountability measures intended to help meet California's housing goals. The designation provides incentives to cities and counties in the form of "additional points and/or other preference in the scoring of competitive housing, community development and infrastructure funding programs administered by HCD," a statement from the state reads.
San Diego specific actions include: updating community plans to provide zoned capacity in the city for more than 98,000 additional housing units, creating the affordable ADU Bonus program, waiving density limitations and allowing for a floor area ratio-based density bonus for development that provides affordable housing and infrastructure amenities.
"Housing is the solution to homelessness, a key strategy for climate action and a path to economic opportunity for all — and we're doing everything we can at the city of San Diego to build more homes at prices our residents can afford," Gloria said. "By passing prohousing policies at the local level and leveraging new tools and funding provided by the governor and the Legislature, we will continue to build more homes, so everyone has a stable place to live."
Cities which have earned the designation are also eligible for community development resources through the PIP Program. The competitive program offers $25.7 million in additional funding to Prohousing cities to help accelerate housing production and preservation.
The Prohousing Designation is awarded when a jurisdiction submits an application with local policies that reduce barriers to housing production. Jurisdictions must receive a minimum score of 30 on the application.
Cities and counties that receive the designation must demonstrate they are promoting "climate-smart" housing in a variety of ways.
"Prohousing cities demonstrate they are ready and willing to be part of the statewide housing solution to getting at least 2.5 million new homes by 2030, by eliminating many of the barriers to building affordable housing near daily destinations," said HCD Director Gustavo Velasquez. "As promised, the state is ready and willing to award grants to Prohousing cities with the new Prohousing Incentive Pilot Program, to help get smart planning over the finish line."
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