In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk about San Diego’s housing market — from non-stop development and ballooning housing prices to free-falling property values, toxic assets, and real estate scams.
What hasn’t been mentioned much, however, are the inadequacies of the city’s affordable housing program.
According to numbers from the San Diego Housing Commission, there exists a shortage of approximately 22,000 rental units for people who earn $15,000 a year or less. The shortage has increased the homeless population, which is now estimated at around 4000.
Citywide, 54 percent of renters are paying more than they can afford for housing.
And, more than 35,000 residents are currently on the waiting list for Section 8 housing; wait time is estimated at five to seven years.
San Diego is eligible for $26 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for funding housing programs such as: Community Development Block Grants, Emergency Shelter Grants, and Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS.
In order to get that money, HUD requires the San Diego Housing Commission to prepare a five-year action plan identifying affordable housing needs, priorities, goals, and strategies. The document for 2009–2014 needs to be submitted, with approval from the council, by May 15.
On Thursday, April 16, 12 days before the deadline to send the document to the city council, a special meeting of the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee was called to hear the Housing Commission’s draft proposal.
For several audience members and some council members, it wasn’t enough time for sufficient community outreach.
“If we’re going to make a statement about the city and where it is going, we want to make sure there really is input,” said councilmember Marti Emerald, chair of the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee. “And, if you’re not even reaching out to the council, we have to wonder how aggressive and assertive you’ve been when reaching out to the public.”
According to the draft, 58 people attended two community focus groups and the draft document was sent to community planning groups throughout the city and available at all city libraries for public review.
“We’re already way behind the eight ball,” councilmember Tony Young added. “It’s not even real community input.”
After Young reprimanded the representatives from the city’s Housing Commission, Emerald took a few shots.
“This is not a beat-you-up session, but I’ll tell you, whoever organized the community-outreach program gets an F,” she said. “The whole idea is to bring information in — not glittering generalities, but specifics.”
Emerald added that instead of looking at the document as merely an application for federal subsidies, it should be regarded as a pledge from the city to remedy the affordable housing crisis.
“I appreciate all the work that goes into it, but really, this outreach is pathetic,” Emerald concluded.