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Sandag assessment requires plan for over 107,000 new homes by 2010

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Although the term "housing crisis" may seem overused and clichéd, the fact is, the price of owning a home has more than doubled since the term was first used almost five years ago. The median housing price is over $500,000 which means families need to make nearly $135,000 a year to afford a median priced home in San Diego.

One reason for the crisis is that since the early 1990s, population growth has outpaced new home construction in the region, contributing to higher housing costs, larger household sizes and increased commuting from Riverside County, Baja Mexico, and more recently from Imperial County.

The San Diego Association of Governments (Sandag) is known for its work on regional transportation issues, but another key area in which the agency is involved, is housing. Sandag 's role in addressing housing needs is multifaceted - from data collection and growth forecasting, to planning for smart growth land uses, to identifying and proposing a variety of practical measures to increase our housing supply.

Recently Sandag, as mandated by state law, adopted a Regional Housing Needs Assessment that requires the region's 18 cities and county government to plan for 107,300 new housing units as they prepare the 2005-2010 housing elements of their general plans. These housing plans must be updated every five years and are required to be completed by the end of June 2005.

In addition to determining the overall number of housing units the region should plan for during the housing element cycle, Sandag allocates the units to each jurisdiction and further allocates them into four income categories: very low, low, moderate and above moderate. A family of four with an annual household income of $34,500 or less is classified as very low income, $55,200 or less low income, and $76,100 or less moderate income.

As a result of the regional housing plan, most local jurisdictions in the San Diego region will need to identify additional multifamily-zoned sites for their very low, low and moderate income housing needs. Though a challenging prospect, many areas exist where multifamily zoning can be added that will complement or improve existing neighborhoods. These smart growth areas include older strip commercial shopping centers, town centers and areas served by high frequency transit.

The Regional Comprehensive Plan (RCP), adopted by Sandag in July 2004, for the San Diego region, contains recommendations and incentives to promote multifamily zoning in smart growth opportunity areas. The agency is working with local jurisdictions to identify these areas and to develop financial and other types of incentives to promote these land use/housing changes. The extension of the TransNet half-cent sales tax in November 2004 provides incentive funds for smart growth projects throughout the region.

The RCP lists a number of recommended actions that Sandag, its member agencies and other organizations should take to provide a variety of housing choices for people of all income levels throughout the region. We need more apartments, condominiums and single-family homes.

We need affordable homes, both for rent and for sale, for people at all stages of their lives - whether they are just starting out on their own, senior citizens on fixed incomes or people employed in the variety of jobs that make our economy prosper.

The housing crisis did not happen overnight, and overcoming the crisis will require bold actions and serious commitment on the part of many players. To view the actions and strategies for meeting the region's housing needs contained in the RCP visit Sandag's Web page at www.sandag.org/rcp.

Davis, Chula Vista deputy mayor, and Roth, CONNECT executive director, are both co-chairs of Sandag's Regional Housing Task Force.

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