Are Only the Rich Welcome in California?
Commentary Louis Rodolico
How many times have you seen an individual or organization stubbornly refuse to listen to those around them? Sincere people telling them flat out what they are doing wrong. Only to witness with dull surprise as that individual or organization fails.
Many, if not most of us, have been saying for some time that we are not building enough affordable and low-income housing. Vacancies are at an historical low, see: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/nobodys-home-california-residential-vacancy-rates/7094/ Who wants to work in a state where you have to live in your car or in a box? Individuals with earning power, but not enough to qualify for the small amount of low-cost housing available are leaving California. Over 15,000 are leaving California each month. California is set to lose a congressional seat after the 2020 census. Census Link: https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/geographic-mobility/state-to-state-migration.html
So that does not add up, people leaving, but a shortage of housing? The controversy over the citizen census question drove immigrants to blue states like California therefore putting pressure on the availability of low-cost housing. Red states may boast their Christian values, but they support politicians who drive immigrants out. Immigrants have always invigorated America and progressive states like California will invariably reap the benefits.
But for now we need to add low cost housing (also known as inclusionary housing, which includes affordable housing and low income housing). Unfortunately, the government continues to provide paths for developers to build an excess of luxury housing. California put in the requirement that 10% of all new housing needs to be inclusionary. However, there is a back door where developers can pay a low In-Lieu fee to sidestep this requirement. Housing construction costs about $250 per square foot. So, you would think that when a developer ops out of inclusionary housing then the In-Lieu fee should be around $250 per square foot, or greater if you include the cost of land. In the city of San Diego, it is $12 per square foot and developers routinely opt out. This has resulted in ½% of inclusionary housing being built with the current In-Lieu fees, not 10%, see graphic.
It is not just the City of San Diego that does this. Other California cities do as well and each city has its own unique set of legislative requirements which makes it almost impossible to compare them. The state can level the field by setting minimum In-Lieu fees at about $250 per square foot, thereby not leaving it to the discretion of local governing authorities. Further; In-Lieu fees should be indexed to inflation and be adjusted to reflect local construction and land costs.
I for one do not espouse to a society where we live in luxury or in a box. By not providing low cost housing we harm the most vulnerable among us and we will continue to erode California’s future middle class. We are wealthy enough to resolve this failure. We should give our elected representatives more leeway to resolve this issue. We need to override the excessive influence of lobbyists and big money here in San Diego.
Louis Rodolico is a Candidate for District 1 City Council