That’s the message in a powerful op-ed by LISC San Diego director Ricardo Flores for the Union-Tribune. A proposed affordable housing bond could funnel badly needed capital into the creation of homes targeted for the state’s most vulnerable residents, which would ease the extreme housing shortage and stoke the economy at the same time.
The commentary below was originally published on the San Diego Union-Tribune:
Why voting yes on Proposition 1 housing bond is right thing to do
By Ricardo Flores
Californians will have the opportunity in the November election to replenish much-needed funding to build housing for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents.
California’s Proposition 1, the Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018, would authorize $4 billion in general obligation bonds for housing-related programs and housing loans for veterans.
Never before has such a measure been so urgently needed.
California is experiencing an extreme housing shortage and the result has been a spike in homelessness. According to last year’s point-in-time-count there were 554,000 homeless in the state, with San Diego accounting for more than 9,000 of those.
That’s a 1 percent increase statewide over the previous year and a 14 percent increase in San Diego.
Those living, and dying, on the streets include families with children, veterans, elderly, disabled and the mentally ill. A hepatitis A outbreak traced to the unsanitary conditions created by thousands of people living on the streets killed at least 20 people and sickened nearly 600 in 2017 and 2018.
This was the deadliest outbreak of this disease since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started tracking the disease, as reported in the Washington Post.
How can California, the fifth largest economy in the world, the beacon for the technology industry, motion picture capital, and biotech hub, possibly tolerate such a disgrace?
Make no mistake: The homeless crisis is a housing crisis. As a result of the high cost of housing, twice the national average, California has the highest poverty rate in the country, according to the California Budget and Policy Center.
More than 1.5 million California households don’t have access to affordable housing. Only 664,000 affordable rental homes exist for the 2.2 million extremely low income and very low income renter households in the state. For those low income residents who are currently housed, a single life emergency — loss of a job, illness, divorce — can turn a family out of their home.
Proposition 1 would directly address this crisis and reverse a significant reduction in state funding in recent years. As the legislation states, nearly $5 billion of funds from Proposition 46 in 2002 and Proposition 1C in 2006 for a variety of affordable housing programs, have been expended.
Combined with the loss of redevelopment funds, $1.5 billion of annual state investment dedicated to housing has been lost, leaving several critical housing programs unfunded.
Proposition 1 directly replenishes critical state funds, including our own local housing trust funds, the CalVet Home Loan program, the Multi-Family Housing Program, and CalHFA Home Purchase Assistance.
These funds will be leveraged with other state, local, and private dollars to help create a safety net for our most at-risk citizens, and create opportunities for working families and veterans to get a leg up toward financial security.
High housing costs and the shortage of housing stock in California directly affect the future health of California’s economy.
Conversely, as the authors of the proposal state, investment in housing creates jobs and provides local benefits.
The one-year impact of building 100 rental apartments is estimated by the authors to include $11.7 million in local income, $2.2 million in taxes and other revenue for local governments, and 161 local jobs or 1.62 jobs per apartment.
The recurring annual impact of constructing 100 rental apartments reaches $2.6 million in local income, $503,000 in taxes and other revenue for local governments, and 44 local jobs or 0.44 jobs per apartment.
Proposition 1 will not only provide affordable homes for Californians, it will create more than 130,000 jobs and pump $23.4 billion into California’s economy.
The authors of the proposition say the dire situation in the state makes “bold action necessary.”
Proposition 1 is a step in the right direction, but we actually need to go further and should supplement this effort with local measures, several of which are up for future consideration here in San Diego.
For example, the San Diego Housing Federation proposal to raise $900 million locally to build 7,500 affordable housing units will generate hundreds of million dollars in matching funds from the state. The measure will possibly go before voters on the 2020 ballot.
Aside from being the most humane approach, providing a home for the homeless has been proven time and again to be more cost-effective than simply providing emergency services for people without homes.
That’s why affordable housing advocates, business leaders, cities and labor, veterans and environmental groups have all endorsed this measure.
And that’s why San Diegans should vote “yes” on Proposition 1.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ricardo Flores, Executive Director, LISC San Diego
Ricardo Flores became executive director of LISC San Diego in Spring 2017. Prior to that, he served as chief of staff for San Diego’s city council president, and was a senior aide to U.S. congresswoman Susan Davis. A native of City Heights, Ricardo graduated from UCLA and today, he and his wife live in the Kensington neighborhood with their rescue lab.