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City still shows greatest need for affordable housing units

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Other jurisdictions in the county may be growing faster and many have a lower median household income, but the heavily populated city of San Diego still has the most need for affordable housing units, according to the San Diego Association of Governments.

SANDAG identified the need for more than 18,000 new low- or very low-income units in the city in its February Regional Housing Needs Assessment for the 2005-2010 housing cycle.

Fittingly, more building projects in the region are being earmarked as affordable, due in part to several city programs and policies, including inclusionary housing and rent assistance.

Spurring the city's efforts are median home prices upward of $600,000, a cost that only 9 percent of area residents can afford to pay, according to the California Association of Realtors. These numbers led the city to declare a "housing state of emergency" in 2002 and pledge assistance with developing 2,185 new affordable housing units citywide. In 2003, the city of San Diego Redevelopment Agency released a Notice of Funding Availability for $55 million and has since helped finance a number of projects that include affordable-housing components.

"It would be one thing if there was a large number of lower-income folks," said Bobbie Christensen, director of communication for the San Diego Housing Commission. "Add that to the high prices, though, and there's really a disparity."

The commission, which receives funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, works with private developers and nonprofit groups to promote affordable housing, and manages almost 1,800 units itself. The organization also advertises pending rent-restricted projects offering rentals or for-sale units in San Diego.

The mixed-use Renaissance Town Homes in North Park, due to be completed in June 2006, will offer 14 units for families earning no more than 100 percent of the area median income (AMI), or $63,400 for a family of four. The project, developed by Carter Reese and Associates, will also include 96 rentals reserved for seniors earning 30 percent to 50 percent AMI. Nonprofit developer San Diego Interfaith Housing Federation is overseeing the rentals, which will range from $330 to $681 per month -- less than half San Diego's average monthly rent of $1,216, according to Hendricks and Partners.

The lower-priced Renaissance homes are provided for in part by the redevelopment agency, but they also meet San Diego's citywide inclusionary housing ordinance, which mandates that developments of more than two homes offer 10 percent of their units -- onsite or offsite -- at a rate affordable to low-income residents. Developers may choose not to build the lower-priced housing and opt instead to pay an in-lieu fee to the housing commission, which uses the money to finance affordable-housing development. Since its inception in North City in 1992, the program has produced 1,231 units in the previously undeveloped open space extending from Rancho Penasquitos to Carmel Valley, according to Christensen. Since extending to the rest of the city in 2003, inclusionary housing has spawned 1,085 projects citywide.

La Boheme, a North Park redevelopment project that also meets inclusionary requirements, broke ground in the spring and is scheduled to be completed by August 2006. The $62 million property, developed by D.R. Horton, includes 45 moderate-income units, 23 of which will be available to families earning 100 percent AMI or less and 22 of which will be open to those earning no more than 120 percent, or $76,100 for a family of four.

According to state law, 15 percent of all units built within a city's redevelopment areas must be made affordable to low-and moderate-income homebuyers. Additionally, the city must use 20 percent of all annual redevelopment tax increment funds to create low- and moderate-income housing, like La Boheme's.

In East Village, Oak Shelter Systems' Villaggio condominium project, due to be completed in March 2007, will provide 33 units to moderate-income families earning 120 percent AMI or less. Units are expected to range between $180,000 and $217,000. Most condos in the region sell for more than $400,000, according to MarketPointe Realty Advisors.

In the Carmel Valley area, Standard Pacific Homes is building 60 two-bedroom, attached town homes designed to serve low-income families earning no more than 65 percent AMI, or $44,850 for a family of four. The Airoso project is scheduled for completion between December 2005 and March 2006, and will be awarded to qualified buyers through a lottery.

Several affordable apartment projects, which are also required to meet inclusionary requirements, are under construction, as well.

The $71 million City Heights Square redevelopment project in City Heights features a $27.1 million senior housing project comprising 150 units that range in rent from $319 to $550.

The City Heights units will house seniors aged 62 and older who earn no more than 45 percent AMI, or about $24,000 for a household of two. Groundbreaking is expected in early 2006, and the project is estimated to be completed by summer 2007.

In Torrey Highlands, Southern California Housing Development Corp. is developing a 123-unit complex called Vista Terraza for low-income families. The project, set to be completed in January 2006, will offer units priced from $424 to $1,029 per month.

In San Ysidro, Beyer Boulevard Apartments LLP is developing 60 units for low-income families earning 60 percent AMI. Scheduled for completion in October, Beyer Courtyard will rent for $680 to $910.

Public funding for these projects comes from inclusionary in-lieu fees, Proposition 46 money and block grants, and development is administered by groups like the city redevelopment agency and Centre City Development Corp.

"When developers develop affordable housing, they need finance assistance," Christensen said. "It doesn't pencil out, as they say, to pay (for construction) then decide to charge lower rents. Because of that, we help with different kinds of financing."

City efforts have had a positive effect on the region's affordable-housing stock, Christensen said, but the need keeps increasing.

About 40 percent of residents qualify for some type of assistance, she said.

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