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How San Diego Can Chip Away at Its Housing Deficit

But one of the biggest factors holding San Diego up is its inability to first come to terms with the region’s housing need.

San Diego is in the middle of a major housing crisis, but so far we’ve failed to address it.

Voice of San Diego has covered some of the big housing failures: Poway’s rejection of affordable homes for veterans, Encinitas’ unwillingness to do its fair share in meeting state housing goals and development proposals that promote urban sprawl.

Commentary - in-story logoBut one of the biggest factors holding San Diego up is its inability to first come to terms with the region’s housing need.

Post-recession, San Diego County now faces a deficit of 60,000 units, with low- and middle-income housing hardest hit. We should be building 14,000 units every year to meet demand and even more to make up the deficit.

But it is not all bleak and hopeless. We’re part of a new coalition called Housing You Matters, which is seeking to build a new consensus on constructive solutions to San Diego’s housing crisis.

Here’s how San Diego leaders and community member can help start chipping away at the problem:

Strengthen the community planning process so there’s ultimately less opposition to new development and less delay. This can be done by incorporating more diverse voices into the community plan update processes and using technology to reach community members who aren’t able to make the meetings. Having a regional interactive discussion about San Diego’s housing needs would also be helpful.

Make better use of underused land in proximity to public transit.

Identify leaders among elected officials and ask each city and the county to establish goals for increased housing production over a range of price points – for both sale and rental properties – so that their adopted housing plans are actually implemented.

Establish accountability by measuring our region’s progress city by city, and share both the good and bad news with the public. Create something akin to the annual homeless count, instead counting new housing units brought online every year. The results could both honor and shame local municipalities.

Identify and advocate for broad‐based funding for infrastructure, and develop innovative financing mechanisms, like the state’s Enhanced Infrastructure Finance Districts. Developers in the city of San Diego receive a 50 percent density bonus and zoning deviations when they build 15 percent of their initial zoning capacity as affordable homes – expand this incentive to other cities.

A new state law makes it easier for people to build accessory dwelling units, or granny flats. Some cities, like San Diego, already comply with the requirements under the state law. Others like Del Mar don’t. Cities should move faster toward compliance and even work toward going beyond the state law in making sure more of these small, often affordable units are built.

Ensure general plan, community plan updates and the SANDAG Smart Growth transit sites have environmental documents in place that streamline the permit process. This saves time and money for developers so projects make financial sense.

At the end of the day, we must convince the public that providing needed housing makes the entire region a better place to live.

Lori Holt Pfeiler is chair of Housing You Matters and president of San Diego Habitat for Humanity. Dan Silver is an executive committee member of Housing You Matters and executive director of Endangered Habitats League. Their commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

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