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Sounding Board: Affordable Housing

The Daily Transcript put this question to mayoral candidates Donna Frye and Jerry Sanders: As mayor, what specific steps will you take to address the supply of affordable housing in San Diego?

This is an issue I care deeply about.

As mayor of San Diego, increasing the supply of affordable housing will be one of my top priorities. I will not sit on the sidelines as the former mayor and current council have done.

The City Council has declared "states of emergency" regarding affordable housing over 60 times since 2002, while the affordability index continued to decline. Less than 10 percent of our residents can now afford a house. San Diegans deserve more from their elected leaders than empty declarations.

Even worse, the city council's only "solution" has been to slap a $500 per unit "processing fee" for affordable housing projects. Thousands of more dollars are assessed in the form of in-lieu fees for the inclusionary housing program -- fees that are passed on directly to homebuyers, making new housing stock even less affordable.

Talk and taxes are not the solution.

As mayor, I will take responsibility for securing cooperation and commitment from public and private entities to address our housing supply. This will include elected officials from the county and other 17 cities, community-based groups, for-profit and non-for-profit developers, lenders, the real estate brokerage industry and all others involved in the provision of housing for low and moderate income families.

As mayor, I will reform regulations that discourage the production of affordable housing. I'll convene representatives from the development and environmental communities to evaluate current regulatory restrictions to ensure they are meeting their original intent. Representatives from our state and federal delegation will be invited to participate in this evaluation.

The shortage of supply in the face of increasing demand is probably our largest problem.

Because the availability of raw land in the region has been virtually exhausted, housing supply will have to be increased primarily through infill redevelopment and increased density along transit corridors. I will look at providing incentives for these important projects.

This approach has understandably met resistance in older communities already suffering from sub-par city infrastructure and amenities. That's why I will couple densification plans with neighborhood renewal plans to upgrade infrastructure so we can create more livable neighborhoods, as has occurred in areas like Hillcrest.

We need to re-evaluate developer fees that are being passed along to homeowners. While developer fees should cover the direct impacts of additional growth in a community, since 2001, development impact fees have increased as much as 858 percent. This is outrageous and is contributing to San Diego's housing affordability crisis.

Finally, we need to replicate the operational efficiencies realized in the Expedite Program for Affordable/In-Fill Housing and Sustainable Buildings in all areas of the department and not charge an additional processing fee for this service.

A customer-oriented, streamlined process for obtaining permits is essential as we work with developers in the community to solve our housing needs.

As mayor, I will hold Development Services management accountable for reduced turnaround times with detailed, monthly reports to the mayor's office. I will also meet with industry representatives and other interested parties regularly, share our process and discuss operational areas that require further improvement.

-- Jerry Sanders

Candidate for mayor

My plan is for balanced development that respects the community plans and provides the infrastructure required for its impacts -- along with specific policies that require affordable housing.

Adding more housing does not mean that housing will be more affordable. Moreover, adding housing without having the infrastructure in place to support that growth negatively impacts our quality of life through increased traffic, slower emergency response times, lack of parking, lack of parks, and the like.

Some of the most economically sound ways to provide more affordable housing are:

1. Building price-controlled units. An example of this is inclusionary housing, where developments are required to include a certain percentage of lower-priced units or pay a fee toward such projects.

2. Building design-controlled units. Projects can be designed with 'efficiency units' that have lower prices because they are smaller than the market norm.

3. Creating better jobs that pay higher wages so that people can afford to buy housing at market rates.

-- Donna Frye

Candidate for mayor

New Section: Sounding Board

Have Your Voice Heard!

The Daily Transcript introduces Sounding Board, a regular opinion page feature focusing on current issues. Send your responses to soundingboard@sddt.com.

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