California can't turn its back on affordable housing

Legislative budget cuts may soon close all redevelopment agencies, the largest local funders of affordable housing. Yet, in the one of the most expensive states, in the middle of housing, job and economic crises, affordable housing is vitally important to thousands of California families. We cannot allow affordable housing to become an unintended casualty of this attempt to fix California's budget.

Existing affordable housing across our state is full, and the situation is only getting worse. With high foreclosure and unemployment rates, many families are forced into rentals. Home prices may be lagging, but rental rates continue to climb due to this increasing demand.

The need for affordable housing is highest among people with disabilities, seniors living on fixed incomes, young families, and blue collar workers. However, the availability of affordable housing has lasting implications for everyone. Affordable housing provides children from struggling families a more secure home life, and stability in the home often translates into higher academic achievement, lower crime rates, and more vibrant communities.

To measure those consequences economically, the affordable housing program creates jobs for construction workers, administrators and property managers. For every 100 units of affordable housing built, over 125 local jobs are generated during construction and 32 permanent jobs after completion. Without this program, many more disabled, seniors and families would be homeless. More homelessness means an increase in other types of public cost.

Affordable Housing advocates are rallying around Sen. Mark DeSaulnier's (D-Concord) proposal to preserve affordable housing. His proposal supports the elimination of redevelopment agencies across California to help pay down the 2011-2012 budget deficit. Beginning in 2012, the money that previously went to housing through redevelopment agencies would be distributed to Councils of Government (COGs) or Regional Transportation Planning Agencies in each region. Those regional governmental bodies would then distribute the funds as grants to the cities and counties that want them.

Lacking any other feasible ideas to preserve affordable homes, I encourage everyone to contact their legislators and voice their support for affordable housing opportunities. Californians can't turn their back on this critical need. The welfare of thousands of people and the vitality of our communities are at stake.

Tinsky is executive director of the San Diego Housing Federation.

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