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Ensuring housing affordability Downtown

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What is affordable housing?

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines “affordable” as housing that costs no more than 30 percent of a household’s monthly income. Public agencies define affordable housing as units with rent restrictions or price restrictions to maintain affordability as defined by HUD for the longest feasible time, generally 55 years or more. Eligible income levels and maximum rents for low- and moderate-income units are determined annually based on San Diego’s Area Median Income issued by HUD.

By Derek Danziger

With Downtown’s current residential population of nearly 35,000 expected to triple to 90,000 by 2030 (based on the 2006 Downtown Community Plan), one of the main redevelopment goals is to ensure that Downtown contains housing options for persons and families of all income levels and promotes income diversity within projects and neighborhoods.
Ensuring home affordability remains a top priority for Centre City Development Corp. (CCDC), working on behalf of the city of San Diego’s Redevelopment Agency. Access to housing that is affordable for all income levels also allows people to live near where they work, with close access to transit, helping to reduce traffic congestion and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions generated by long commutes. It’s a model of smart growth.
While the recent housing boom Downtown received significant attention for the addition of market-rate condominiums, less focus was given to the important addition of affordable housing developments. Since CCDC’s inception in 1975, more than 3,500 affordable housing units have been created throughout Downtown’s neighborhoods, using Downtown redevelopment funds, and more than 450 units are in the pipeline. This accounts for 19.6 percent of the total housing units built Downtown since 1975. These units are available at affordable rents to low- and ­moderate-income households earning up to 120 percent of Area Median Income (AMI) ($89,900 for a family of four in 2009). More than 60 percent of Downtown’s affordable housing units are available to very-low-income households earning up to 50 percent of AMI ($41,300 for a family of four in 2009).
Additionally, CCDC has maintained a strong focus on adding supportive housing units that combine affordable housing with individualized health, counseling and employment services for persons with mental illness, chemical dependency, chronic health problems or other challenges that are at risk of becoming homeless.
“At the core of what we do is to work to create a balanced community with housing options for everyone,” said CCDC Chairman Fred Maas. “We will continue striving to exceed our goals and be innovative in our approach to providing housing.”
To date, $130 million in Downtown redevelopment funds have been invested to produce affordable housing. An additional $38 million have been committed for projects currently in the pipeline.
Downtown redevelopment funds have also contributed to build affordable housing in communities outside Downtown.To date, $43 million of Downtown redevelopment funds have been used to build approximately 1,000 affordable units in communities such as City Heights, North Park, Barrio Logan and North Bay.
Production of affordable housing is mandated by state law. California’s Community Redevelopment Law (CRL) requires that a minimum of 15 percent of new housing developed in a redevelopment project area be affordable to low- and moderate-income households and, of those affordable units, 40 percent must be affordable to very-low-income households. To achieve these goals, 20 percent of tax increment (growth in property taxes resulting from new development) generated in a project area is set aside for affordable housing.
On behalf of the City Redevelopment Agency, CCDC has partnered with private developers to build and rehabilitate thousands of housing units for low- and moderate-income households, using Downtown’s 20 percent set-aside funds. Redevelopment funds usually are leveraged with other local, state and federal funding sources.
In 2009, the CCDC board adopted Affordable Housing Guidelines that enumerate CCDC’s priorities and minimum requirements for CCDC/Redevelopment Agency-funded affordable housing projects, including the following:
Supportive Housing — CCDC is committed to assisting in development of supportive housing for the special needs population that is at risk of homelessness. Projects funded by CCDC/Redevelopment Agency will be required to include at least 15 percent of the affordable units as supportive housing. (Projects in East Village are exempt.)
Green Building — Sustainability is an important policy objective for CCDC. Projects funded by CCDC/Redevelopment Agency are required to be built to LEED Silver or equivalent standards.
Geographic Distribution — To promote equal distribution of affordable housing units throughout Downtown neighborhoods, CCDC will give preference to projects that are located in areas with fewer affordable housing projects.
Public Benefits — CCDC will encourage developers to incorporate community amenities in affordable housing projects, such as nonprofit space, public outdoor space, prime retail space and more.
As Downtown continues to grow and develop, maintaining a proper balance of affordable and market-rate housing will be essential to creating a vibrant, urban environment. It’s important to enable people to live and work in the same area and to be close to public amenities, transit and services. To learn more about recent or proposed projects or to obtain more information about affordable housing visit and visit the Affordable Housing section.

Derek Danziger is vice president of
marketing and communications for Centre City Development Corp.

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