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Sounding Board: Affordable Housing II

The Daily Transcript introduces Sounding Board, a regular opinion page feature focusing on current issues. The Daily Transcript will engage community leaders in a dialogue and publish their comments. Readers' comments are also welcome. Send your responses to soundingboard@sddt.com.

Daily Transcript Question: What specific steps must be taken by government and community leaders to assure there is an adequate supply of affordable housing throughout San Diego County?

An adequate housing supply should be encouraged through the restructuring and streamlining of multiple fees and regulations that impact land development.

Major CEQA reform would do much to improve the process. For instance, an expedited process could be made available to developers who commit to a certain percentage of affordable housing below a certain price point. Additionally, the existing state tax structure encourages sales tax generating businesses to locate in a municipality, but does little to encourage residential construction.

Lastly, community and government leaders should expeditiously determine specific locations where housing can be located and then work with developers to find creative methods to invest in the infrastructure needed to support housing.

-- Cindy Gompper Graves

Chief executive officer, South County Economic Development Council

Providing affordable housing is a matter of allowing more density or allowing more sprawl. It is better to increase density, and do it across the city rather than in a few areas. The challenge is muting the community opposition. We have to convince everybody, especially those who already have housing, that this is a most important issue.

I also believe that speeding up the approval process would help a lot.

You also need to look at fees. You can't just say to builders, build it when it doesn't make sense.

Finally, I think that you need to make it (affordable housing) a big issue in the mayoral campaign.

-- Mark Riedy

Executive director of the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate at the University of San Diego

Adequate and affordable are extremely subjective words when used in the context of San Diego housing. Just look at our freeways at rush hours as thousands commune to jobs in a city they can't afford to live in. What is adequate and affordable to the few is intolerable and far too expensive for the many.

We have seen in the past several years more and more "affordable housing" escalating out of reach of potential buyers because of the rising tide of appreciation caused by more demand than supply.

Building more and more boxes isn't the answer in an area that is already groaning under the increase demand for water, electricity and public services. Before addressing the need for more housing, we need to seriously consider how to fix a public and political infrastructure that has collapsed.

Either we have to provide fantastic, inexpensive, fast and functional mass transit that connects San Diego to outlying areas that still have room for expansion, or we have to realize that until the housing market bubble bursts, San Diego will only be for those that got here when the getting was good.

-- Dr. William Byxbee

Dean, College of Extended Studies, San Diego State University

Roll back the regulations, restrictions and controls back to 1970. At that time there were something like eight to 10 zoning categories. Now there are more than 300.

Thousands and thousands of acres are off limits. The more controls on the market there are, the more shortages there are and that makes things expensive.

People think that fewer people will move here if the housing isn't here. The truth is they double and triple up. Between 1990 and 2000, the region's population increased by 200,000 people, That's three cities the size of Poway.

-- Fred Schnaubelt

President of Schnaubelt & Sons

What needs to be done it to change zoning laws in all incorporated cities in San Diego County to allow for density increases. That is, build more duplexes, four-plexes, etc. -- instead of single family, detached, houses.

Alan Nevin, a real estate expert, has indicated that the issue is supply-based and if we simply "up-zoned" the problem could be solved.

The problem is that our cities don't want to "up-zone".

-- John Hawkins

President & CEO, Cloud 9 Shuttle

The city needs a housing czar, someone who will specifically be responsible for ensuring that every affordable and workforce housing opportunity is identified and acted upon.

The city needs to create an annual housing goal. They need to ask the housing czar to help them meet this goal annually. In 2004 we created less housing stock then in 2003. That did not help the crisis

The city needs to create a better incentive package for the builders to entice them to create more stock. There are policies in other cities, like Seattle, that have helped fuel housing production.

The business community needs to tell city hall exactly what type of housing needs to be built to help with recruitment and retention of quality employees. Then programs need to be created to help the employees with down payments so that they can take advantage of new affordable housing opportunities.

Solving the crisis will take action, not talk. Housing task force reports are wonderful, but while they gather dust, the affordability level in this region continues to work toward zero percent. In March 2000 affordability was 24 percent as of last month it was 10 percent. It is unacceptable that we are moving in the wrong direction.

-- Eugene "Mitch" Mitchell

Vice president, Public Policy and Communications

San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce

Previous Sounding Boards:

Affordable Housing I (Sep. 8, 2005)

Top Priorities (Sep. 7, 2005)

Initial Actions (Sep. 6, 2005)

Financial Remedies (Sep. 2, 2005)

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