Brown should sign local-control bill on housing

In the months after Gov. Jerry Brown proposed to dissolve California’s redevelopment agencies, he spoke frequently of his desire to return control to local communities. Nearly two years later, the governor is considering a bill that would do just that.

Written by Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins and passed by the Legislature, AB 1229 would return decisions on housing policies to California’s cities and counties. It would do so by allowing local governments to determine whether an inclusionary housing policy is a solution for its residents’ affordable housing needs.

Cities or counties that create inclusionary policies generally require a small percentage of new residential development be made affordable to low-to-moderate-income households. Inclusionary policies have been a key element in addressing our region’s high housing costs for many years. Cities throughout the county, from Chula Vista to San Diego, Carlsbad to San Marcos, have adopted such policies.

The benefits are clear. They allow lower-wage workers to live closer to employment, reducing traffic for all of us. In addition, they reduce the risk that seniors, veterans, youth transitioning from foster care, and people with disabilities will fall into homelessness when they cannot afford rent on their limited incomes.

And, while opponents of AB 1229 claim inclusionary housing is harmful to development, the reality is that the housing created by the ordinances improves local economies by creating jobs and new economic activity, and attracting outside investment.

A 2009 court ruling created ambiguity for jurisdictions implementing these policies, leading many cities to limit or even halt their inclusionary programs. Compounding the problem, the court case was decided in the midst of California’s fiscal crisis, a crisis that forced many more families into the rental market, driving rents up and lowering vacancy rates.

This has resulted in even fewer housing choices for those with limited incomes, including our region’s minimum wage workers. Worse, the state then eliminated over a billion dollars of locally controlled redevelopment investment, a main resource for creating housing affordable to our low- and moderate-income earners. As a result, we are faced with even greater challenges for creating affordable housing for our region.

According to the San Diego Regional Planning Agency, the county will need more than 330,000 new homes and apartments to keep up with the pace of growth over the next 30 years. In the coming decades, cities and counties should be allowed to exercise flexibility in meeting the needs of their growing populations, using whatever tools are appropriate and acceptable to their constituencies. Inclusionary ordinances are one solution that cities in our region have chosen to address the housing needs of residents who struggle to pay for our high cost of housing.

AB 1229 would not mandate that any jurisdiction adopt an inclusionary ordinance; rather; rather, it lets local governments decide how to respond to the housing needs of low- and moderate-wage workers and individuals living on fixed incomes. We need to return the control and discretion to these local communities, not the state and not a judge, to decide what is in their community’s best interests.

We call on Gov. Brown to demonstrate his commitment to local control by signing AB 1229, letting local governments determine policies that work for them.

Riggs is executive director of the San Diego Housing Federation, a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the creation and preservation of affordable housing. Ruff is director of the San Diego Program for the Corporation for Supportive Housing, a national organization working to advance housing solutions for vulnerable populations.

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4 UserComments
Fred Schnaubelt 10:46am October 17, 2013

"Let local government decide about housing needs." Let there be no mistake, 100% of the so-called housing crisis is due to government policies. People are asking for those who created the housing crisis to solve it. That's absurd. The idea that low-income people are entitled to live in brand new housing is absurd. The absurd Inclusionary zoning policy makes all housing more expensive, both brand new and existing if you think about it for a couple of seconds, in order to help a handful of voters. When government adds to the cost of brand new housing, after a lag time that cost is capitalized into the price of all housing which is why 50-year old homes cost over $300,000 today.

jeff 9:23pm October 15, 2013

I bought my house in City Heights in 2009, and qualified for a rehabilitation loan at that time. The City Heights redevelopment agency funded $35000 in forgivable loans to me, which paid for new windows, new roof, exterior paint, kitchen cabinets, front lawn, automatic irrigation, new toilet, new water heater, and new pavers. The loans would be forgiven after ten years. If I sold the house before then, I would have to pay the loans back in full. In 2012, the redevelopment agency was dissolved by the California legislature. If I sell my house today, four years after receiving the loans, do I have to pay back the loans? And if so, where does the money go?

Tricia Tasto Levien 9:27pm October 10, 2013

Local governments need the tools to help solve the housing affordability crisis. Return the control to the local governments.

Jenn Fleming 2:29pm October 10, 2013

This sounds like a good idea to me: "lets local governments decide how to respond to the housing needs of low- and moderate-wage workers and individuals living on fixed incomes"