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Addressing the Issue of Affordable Housing in San Diego

by Blake Bunch, published

As city council approaches the issue of addressing the continuing need for more affordable housing in San Diego at their upcoming special meeting on December 17, creating fresh strategies and goals for affordable housing programs will surely be at the top of their list.

According to the city's website, in a recent survey of citizens conducted by the City of San Diego, they found that only twenty-nine percent thought housing was affordable in the area.

Many will have their own opinions on what defines "affordable housing," though. In San Diego, the median cost of a home is over half a million dollars. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHUD) deems housing costs "affordable" if total monthly costs are no more than thirty percent of a household's monthly income.

Where does San Diego stand in this monthly cost analysis?

In 2011, the median family income for a typical San Diego household was $59,477. Following the DHUD definition of affordable housing, a typical average median income (AMI) in San Diego would entail renting an apartment for nearly $1,500 a month, or a home under $225,000, depending on family unit size.

For some, those numbers will remain unaffordable, for others, it is well below their monthly expenses. So how has the city gone about approaching the housing predicament?

The underlying goal for the city to propagate these efforts is stated on their website:

"To provide sufficient affordable housing opportunities for San Diego residents. This is a challenging goal requiring a comprehensive and coordinated approach. San Diego's overall housing goals are based on State Redevelopment Law, the City of San Diego Housing Element of the Progress Guide and General Plan for FY 1999-2004, and the City of San Diego Consolidated Plan for FY 2001-2005. State redevelopment law requires the allocation of twenty percent of all annual redevelopment tax increment funds be used to create low- and moderate-income housing and that 15 percent of all units built within all redevelopment areas must be affordable."

In addition to this main goal, the city also aims to become even more efficient in providing housing for all income groups, preserving existing affordable housing units, increasing opportunities for renters and employers, and ensuring redevelopment funds for necessary programs.

The outlook is not entirely bleak for the city, however. Since the inception of the Affordable Housing Task Force, the city has made great strides in addressing this problem.

The task force has created over 13,000 affordable homes through low-interest loans, as well as provide rental assistance to nearly 12,000 "very low-income households." Standing out among other accomplishments, they also have made the construction of 324 affordable units for families, seniors and veterans in City Heights, North Bay, North Park, ,and San Ysidro possible through the utilization of $11.2 million in gap financing from the City Redevelopment Division.

Leading up to council's discussion on affordable housing, the San Diego Housing Federation (SDHF) will be holding a roundtable meeting today at 8:30am at the NTC Command Center, drawing from their most recent work in National City.

"Every San Diegan deserves a safe, healthy, and stable place to call home," said Susan Riggs Tinsky, Executive Director of SDHF. "Unfortunately for many San Diegans, the cost of housing - even for a basic apartment - is out of reach."

Though far from out of the woods, with outside agencies like the SDHF, and the Affordable Housing Task Force working internally, the city is taking the correct approach to this issue. Council president Todd Gloria placing this item as a high priority at the upcoming special council meeting says quite a good deal about what the city's direction will be for the new year.

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