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City leaders address San Diego's affordable housing crisis

Posted at 12:19 PM, May 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-28 15:34:47-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – City leaders Thursday addressed the shortage of affordable housing in San Diego and what more needs to be done to provide affordable homes for residents.

In 2000, there were more than 91,000 affordable housing units in San Diego. Twenty years later, that number has dropped by 72 percent.

Results from a new San Diego Housing Commission study, titled "Preserving Affordable Housing in the City of San Diego," shows rent for 86 percent of all multi-family rental housing units is unrestricted. This means the individual property owners set their rent.

The study shows 21 percent of that percentage make it affordable for low-income households, and 35 percent are affordable to middle-class households.

Laura Ann Fernea, executive director of City Heights Community Development Corporation, said, “We need a community where people don’t have to choose [between] buying groceries or paying rent. A community where families aren’t threatened or harassed and evicted without options. A community where everyone has a place to call home. “

"We've lost a staggering number of homes that were affordable to our lowest-income families," said San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez. "This study provides the framework we need to reverse this trend and save the affordable homes we have left."

The preservation strategies recommended in the report are:

-- Provide seed funding to create a public-private affordable housing preservation fund that is a dedicated source of funding for preservation activities;

-- Redirect funds originally associated with the Redevelopment Agency of San Diego and its dissolution to fund preservation;

-- Implement a short-term residential occupancy fee with revenue dedicated to preservation;

-- Adopt a preservation ordinance to strengthen and expand the rights granted by the state preservation notice law;

-- Offer incentives to owners of unrestricted properties in exchange for recording affordability restrictions;

-- Strengthen San Diego's existing single-room occupancy ordinance to maintain affordability;

-- Require relocation assistance for displaced residents;

-- Develop and staff the administration of a preservation program;

-- Create an interagency preservation working group, to be convened by the San Diego Housing Commission;

-- Create a preservation collaborative composed of non-governmental preservation stakeholders.

San Diego Housing Commission President and CEO Rick Gentry said, “While new construction is important, it is essential to preserve existing housing that’s affordable for households with low income.”

The framework for this plan will be presented to the San Diego City Council next month before the budget is approved.

SDHC has included approximately $22 million specifically for affordable housing preservation in its Fiscal Year 2021 budget, pending the approval of the City Council in its role as the Housing Authority of the City of San Diego.