Affordable Housing must remain among the most important of our community priorities. Adequate and affordable housing is a pillar of the “pursuit of happiness” penned by Thomas Jefferson. But what do policymakers mean when they say: “affordable housing?”
We all love North San Diego County. But San Diego is still one of the least affordable places in which to live in California. Although we also need middle income homes, high rents are among the chief reasons for the unaffordability of housing for both middle and low income residents. According to recent national census data, more than 50% of our county’s renters are spending one-third and 28% of our county renters are spending half of their monthly income on rent. This is unsustainable and results in bankruptcy and despair for North County families.
Naturally, this burdens low income, veterans and working families most because that leaves a challenging margin for food, healthcare, and other necessities. People with these rent burdens are more likely to skip doctor appointments, avoid paying for medicine, and are the least likely to be able to save money or ever move into home ownership.
Current trends for North County renters is as much a problem now as it was during and after the 2008 recession. The median gross rent in North County is $1,598 per month while median income is $5,283. Governor Newsom wants builders to build 500,000 new homes in California every year for the next seven years. This lofty goal requires cities and counties to also meet the challenges of schools, libraries, streets, transportation and other infrastructure.
Californians passed the $4 billion statewide bond measure for affordable housing last November. That is a good start to meet the half million new housing goal set by the Governor. But to encourage affordable housing, let’s require our lawmakers to support legislation to double the $85 million in tax credits to encourage investment in affordable housing. Further, let’s provide access to tax increment financing, a tool successfully used by prior redevelopment agencies. Also, it’s time to create a public state bank that invests in infrastructure and housing. These are the modest requirements to meet housing goals and for cities and counties in California to meet concomitant infrastructure growth.
We in San Diego County are resilient but public policy must reflect the needs and keep pace with the economic realities of the families who reside here.
Alan Geraci is a consumer advocate/attorney.