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Sounding Board: Affordable Housing III

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?


The answer requires a long-term view and commitment by our San Diego community. With such a view and commitment, changes can happen, but only a step-by-step basis.

The steps will have to occur over a period of years. The overall solution will require extensive participation by the elected and appointed officials of the federal, state, and local governments. Each governmental entity will need to provide some level of subsidies and pass legislative enactments that, collectively, focus on: increasing supply, reducing cost and creating programs, all related to the development of new homes and conversions.

In the short-term (over the next 18 to 24 months), as an initial step, all local governmental agencies and elected officials need to: reduce the restrictions (e.g., increase density and density bonus ratios); decrease exactions and fees; and expedite the processing time for rezoning of property, the conversion of condominiums and multifamily development (both apartments and condominiums).

As part of step one, in this multi-stepped process, the state should: (1) pass laws eliminating strict liability in construction defect litigation and continue to provide incentives for the building community to promptly repair any "reasonable defects"; (2) provide our county and cities with funding for environmental impact reports, infrastructure, and transportation needs; and (3) pass fiscal reform legislation, which creates an incentive for cities and county to approve housing projects, in a more timely and cost effective manner.

As part of step one, on all governmental levels, the environmental laws must begin to be overhauled in a manner that allows our community to use and re-use land more promptly and efficiently.

Lastly, during this same time and continuing thereafter, our region must create a public/private board-based (e.g., political, social and economical) coalition for the purposes of educating the residents of our region as to the benefits of increased density, infill development and smart growth projects.

-- Louis A. Galuppo

Galuppo Law Firm, APC


There is no doubt that San Diego is growing. We cannot tell our children, employees, friends and parents that in order to afford housing they will need to drive north on Interstate 15 or east on Interstate 8 far enough out until they can afford something.

We also cannot gobble up all the undeveloped land our grandchildren could enjoy, which is what shortsighted land planning is achieving today.

That means we must be more innovative and develop leadership to ensure economic sustainability for our region, which is in large part the mission of the Urban Land Institute. Here are our top 10 ideas to consider when addressing our regions housing concerns.

1. Quality of Life Bond -- The entire community needs to participate in paying for infrastructure to support housing affordability so that even our mature communities will accept new development.

2. Balance Between Land Values and Density -- Communities and their political leaders must strike a middle ground, allowing significant increases in densities while requiring some of the increased value to be diverted from the land owner to infrastructure improvements. Some compromise occurs now, but usually the density increase is not great enough to generate sufficient funds for infrastructure.

3. Simplifying the Approval Process -- It would help if the approval process (both discretionary and ministerial) was greatly simplified to give developers more assurance (and therefore less perceived risk) early on. That could significantly reduce the risk-premium demanded by investors. A lower risk-premium means lower profit levels will be required for projects to go forward. The simplification may impact the time that a community has to review new projects but new systems would need to be set up to expedite the community process to assure buy-in from the neighborhood.

4. Develop a Regional Commission on Housing -- Jurisdictions, agencies and principle players must work together to address our need for an increase in housing stock. This commission would need land use authority.

5. Increasing Supply -- We need to create economic incentives (carrots) to create more housing supply not mandates (sticks). Increasing supply is the only way to reduce pricing and balance the entire market. We need to accept responsibility rather than letting it be Temecula's problem (and now El Centro). This does not mean fitting in residential where it is convenient or least opposed. A proactive approach would be to seek out new land use opportunities.

6. New Land Use Opportunities -- Collocation, Accessory Dwelling Units and transit node densification provide great prospects for more efficient uses of land. An Accessory Dwelling Unit Program could offer prototype plans, a how-to manual, a wage subsidy program and a loan program to those interested in building an accessory dwelling unit on their property, not unlike the award winning program in Santa Cruz.

7. Sustainable Urban Management -- The orderly planning of growth in the region requires that we direct population increase to the urbanized areas and that these urbanized areas in turn take their fair share of population or build their fair share of units. Ensuring that we build a variety of housing types in a variety of geographic markets targeting density around a multi-modal transportation system capable of moving a diverse population to activity centers throughout the region. Also recognizing that the provision of affordable housing is a shared responsibility - those communities with relatively less should provide more than those with an already larger share.

8. Sustainable Development and Green Building Practices -- Solving long-term affordability through the provision of high-quality, long-lasting, low impact structures and units that are cheaper to operate and maintain.

9. Building a "Restorative Economy" -- Demanding equal environmental, social and economic returns. The restorative economy reduces or eliminates waste as a by-product of our ecological footprint, where waste adds costs, which are then passed on to the consumer.

10. Leaders Who are Willing to Lead for the Good of All

* Mary M. McLellan

* Chairwoman, Urban Land Institute San Diego/Tijuana


Previous Sounding Boards:

Affordable Housing II (Sep. 9, 2005)

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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