How to Get Affordable Housing Built

The Question:

How will your yes vote on R ENSURE affordable housing will get built in Healdsburg?  Why do you think so little has been built in the past 5-6 years?  Should the land/home values remain high, what would you specifically do to encourage developers to build affordable housing?

My Answers:

Let’s be clear, I have no illusions that the approval of Measure R will suddenly result in a wave of affordable housing construction.  I simply believe that we need as many tools and as less friction as possible to address the problem, and I feel Measure R provides tools and reduces friction in a way that is compatible with our values.

As for the reasons behind the scarcity of affordable housing…

Healdsburg has experienced a near perfect storm of circumstances that has significantly impacted housing:

  • Our success at promoting our desirable qualities magnified by the communication energy of the Web which has increased demand for owning property here, which obviously results in higher prices

  • Our easy proximity to one of the most wealthy regions in the history of humanity, which enables property buyers to spend unusual amounts of cash on property purchases, which raises prices even further AND puts borrowers at a disadvantage in the sales negotiation process

  • Our firm resolve to preserve our urban growth boundary, which physically limits the supply of residential parcels available for the construction of new housing

  • The loss of Redevelopment Agency funds which have traditionally been used to invest in the construction of affordable housing

 

The flip side of our situation is the truth that there is plenty of money to be made by building housing here, even for housing that is affordable to 120-160% of area median income.  We need to be more aggressive about pursuing all options.

Some specific ideas I have in mind:

  • Explore a “socially entrepreneurial” approach to housing - for example,  the creation of a local community land trust fund, similar to the Housing Land Trust of Sonoma County, which would be a conduit for money to be invested toward the purchase of & re-lease parcels and for the construction of affordable housing
  • Increase the density potential and therefore affordability of residential development by increasing maximum height limits
  • Make investment in housing more palatable than investment in hotels by increasing the friction of hotel development - for example, by requiring greater community benefits, such as greater public access to facilities, realistic parking capacity, minimum LEED certification and per-room monitoring of water use 

The problem of expanding access to affordable housing is big and complex - and it requires a range of strategies to solve it.


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