Late Friday afternoon, Sacramento City Manager John Shirey pulled a controversial recommendation to terminate the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency from the City Council's Tuesday agenda. He was right to do so. It should never have been placed on the agenda in the first place, and certainly not with so little notice.
Shirey's recommendation produced a firestorm of protest from local housing advocates. They complained, justifiably, that they had been blindsided. Neither the city manager nor anyone else had notified them about the proposal to terminate the principal agency responsible for providing affordable housing in the region.
Shirey told The Bee's editorial board that he was mistakenly informed that he needed to dissolve SHRA by Jan. 1 and provide six months' notification in order to remove the agency's redevelopment functions which have been eliminated by the Legislature from its housing functions. He has since learned that that minor technical fix requires a simple amendment, not the dissolution of the agency.
Despite that explanation, Shirey makes no secret of the fact he wants to re-examine the governing structure of SHRA and perhaps end the joint powers authority and fold its operations into city government.
Sacramento County Executive Brad Hudson has expressed similar views. Like Shirey, with no warning and no notice to stakeholders, Hudson placed and later pulled an SHRA termination proposal from the Board of Supervisors agenda for Tuesday.
Critics question the motives of the two local government leaders.
Was their aborted effort to dissolve SHRA a sincere attempt to improve governance? Or was it a naked power grab?
For more than 30 years, SHRA, a city-county joint powers authority, has worked effectively to greatly expand the availability of affordable housing to site, finance, maintain and manage housing. It owns and directly manages more than 3,000 units. It regulates 22,000 more units built by private developers and administers the distribution of more than 12,000 housing vouchers.
By all accounts the agency has established one of the best track records in the state for building and maintaining housing for the poor. Part of its effectiveness has been its ability to leverage both city and county resources and to work across boundaries.
From all indications, the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency is not broken. Quite the opposite, in fact. It has been a marked success.
The task for Hudson and Shirey now is to rebuild relations with housing advocates. That relationship will be essential if Sacramento is to make strides on affordable housing in this post-redevelopment period. There's no road map for this including figuring out funding alternatives. But both the city and county have an advocate in Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a redevelopment opponent who nonetheless recognizes the challenge ahead for financing low-income housing.
Open discussions can move the region ahead. Closed-door abandonment of affordable housing options, with the city and county no longer working together, would be a huge step backward.
The Bee's past stands
"Now that cities and redevelopment agencies have been humbled, the Legislature should consider recreating sensible alternatives. Some cities used redevelopment to clean up toxic waste sites and to encourage housing construction in urban centers, including homes for low-income people. Lawmakers should find ways to restore such uses and marry them with goals of more transit-friendly development "
Dec. 31, 2011