Encinitas tried to get creative in dealing with its housing affordability problem. It didn’t work.
State law requires the North County coastal city to give developers a chance to build up to 1,000 low-income homes by increasing the amount of development that can take place in given areas. But the city hasn’t been able to find enough locations to please all its residents.
That’s why in November 2014, the city and residents decided on an alternative: They’d try to encourage people to turn illegal “granny flats” into legal homes reserved for low-income residents.
Granny flats, or accessory units, are small homes with limited features that share a property with a primary home, and are often reserved for extended family members of the main home. But homeowners sometimes rent them out, and many don’t comply with existing city health and safety codes.
Encinitas offered a deal to homeowners with out-of-compliance granny flats: If they would fix them up and make them part of the city’s affordable housing stock, the city wouldn’t penalize the property owners for the illegal units. To further encourage people to participate, the city would also waive the $900 application fee landlords normally pay to make apartments part of the low-income housing program. The units would have a 20-year restriction capping the rent at a certain amount in order to keep them affordable for low-income renters. After 20 years, owners would be able to rent them out at market rate.
The hope was it would be a win-win for the city, which needed to provide low-income housing, and residents, who opposed new construction on grounds it would change their community.
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The wealthier the city, the stronger the nimbyism. Encinitas is not immune. They love their housekeepers, nannies, and gardeners as long they never have to live next door. How dare the poor get a chance to live near where they work and send their kids to a good school.
Only a government official would think charging applicants a $900 fee in exchange for getting below market rent is a good deal. I'm sure they are shocked that it wasn't an overwhelming success.
A wise man once told me that a camel is just a horse made by government committee.