For years, county supervisors have prioritized big buildings and the county’s long-term fiscal health. They’ve built up a massive $2 billion savings account and earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars with both ends in mind.
Those priorities are starting to change.
At least two county supervisors see an opening for the county to play a more significant role in combating San Diego’s homelessness crisis. They’ve proposed pulling $25 million from the county’s reserve account and looking into offering up county properties to accelerate affordable housing development.
If those proposals are approved, it would represent a dramatic shift for a county that’s historically invested few substantial resources in housing. Until now, county supervisors have largely relied on state and federal money to address that need and let other agencies take the lead on housing projects – even as the region’s homelessness and affordable housing crises festered around them.
Political winds could soon push the county even further. By 2020, four Republican supervisors who’ve held office for more than two decades will be termed out, making way for new leadership that’ll likely push new priorities. Progressives and even a Republican running for supervisor have been vocal about the need to use more reserve money.
A county government long known for its fiscal conservativism could undergo a big transformation.
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Wasn't there a county back trash to energy plant that almost bankrupt the county back in the 80's. Be careful county. One major wrong decision and its back to zero.
The $25 million is a good start, but it is not enough. Roberts says that the money will spur the development of 1,000 affordable units, but that equates to only 25,000 per unit. While that money may be leveraged a bit, bank mortgages cannot be made to projects whose tenants can pay little or no rent. 100- 200 units will more likely be the result, unless the County or other government agencies step up with more money. A permanent annual contribution would be more useful, as it could be leveraged to a much greater sum, via a bond measure.
""...Roberts said. “I wish I’d have personally gotten involved earlier but hindsight’s always easier.”
Of course it is! Being a leader is hard. You have to get out front of issues. Truer words were never spoken.
The reserve for county operations should be held as a reserve. However, if the amount is seen by prudent analysts as too large, then find a way to return that money to those that paid it in: the taxpayers. There is no reason at all that merely due to a larger reserve than expected, should that money HAVE to be spent. It belonged to the taxpayer before there county got it. Cut fees, cut taxes, and/or return the money to the taxpayers. Government has no need to simply grow to fit the size of the money available.
There's a good rationale for spending some of the money on affordable housing. The city and county supported the redevelopment of downtown, which eliminated tens of thousands of affordable housing units. Those developments brought in more property tax money to support the growth of reserve funds.