City workshop in Pacific Beach highlights need for more affordable housing
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 10/17/19 - 01:00 PM | 2723 views | 2 2 comments | 69 69 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A poster on display summed up the challenge: San Diego needs to build 108,000 new housing units – 13,500 annually – to keep pace with 26% projected growth by 2035. Currently, 4,100 new housing units per year are being built.

That sobering news greeted guests at an Oct. 1 community workshop held on future City housing policies at Crown Point Elementary School. At the workshop, beach residents commented on the ongoing update of the City of San Diego’s Housing Element (for 2021-2029).

“It’s about housing in general, a component of the City’s general plan,” said senior city planner Vicki White of the workshop’s purpose. “The City’s housing element is required by state law to be updated every eight years.”

Added White, “We’re doing outreach right now, having workshops throughout the City touching on each area and finding out what people’s housing needs are.”

A City housing survey is available at surveymonkey.com/r/C5X7396. The purpose of the questionnaire, which takes about five to 15 minutes to complete, is to provide input about specific housing issues and solutions including homelessness, older adults, homeownership, access and quality, and displacement and production.

The City at the Oct. 1 workshop had numerous stations set up on various housing facets, with blank sheets upon which guests registered via Post Its their ideas, complaints, and observations on what’s needed with affordable, and other housing, in San Diego.

Suggestions ran the gamut from concerns that short-term vacation rentals are further eroding already limited housing stocks, to suggestions on how the City might best produce more affordable housing.

Colin Parent, executive director for Circulate San Diego, a regional grassroots group focusing on creating more mobility choices and more walkable and bikeable neighborhoods, agreed housing production isn’t what it needs to be.

“The numbers show we are building substantially less housing than what we need, and a lot less than what we have historically built in the past,” Parent said, adding San Diego has “adopted a variety of rules that makes it very difficult, and expensive, to build new homes. The result has been far fewer homes being built.”

Defining housing affordability, Parent said housing is considered affordable if someone can live in it and pay no more than 30% of their income, either for their rent or their mortgage.

Parent added there are strategies available including government subsidies, and deed restrictions requiring the building of a certain number of affordable units, to promote creating more affordable housing.

“We need to address this severe housing supply crisis,” said Parent. “We need to develop, and establish, rules that meet the needs of population growth.”

Parent said Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s administration has been working hard to make housing supply “a greater priority.”

“They're making it easier to build affordable homes, and the California legislature is doing similar things,” he said adding the City, in 2016, adopted a “bonus law that says if developers set aside a certain percentage of their development as affordable, that they can then build a larger development overall. That’s a good trade-off.”

Of what needs to be done to promote future housing, Parent said, “We need to re-examine some of the barriers to housing development, and reform and update them.”

Added Parent, “The housing element is a process in which you have to identify enough zoned land, with sufficient capacity, to build on.”

City planner White said feedback from the City’s housing workshops will now be used to “develop a draft of the (City) housing element to be put out for public review and comment by the end of this month (October).”

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James Carter
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November 24, 2019
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