For the last 30 years I have been building affordable housing in Sacramento and other cities in California. A measure on the Nov. 6 ballot would make that more difficult and would worsen our state’s housing crisis worse while hurting middle- and low-income renters.
Proposition 10 would usher in a host of new restrictions that would make it difficult to include affordable units in the projects. Affordable housing communities are already subject to rent control by the state and local agencies. By failing to exempt them from sweeping new rent control ordinances, the authors of Proposition 10 made a critical mistake that would decimate the affordable housing industry.
Remember that the affordable housing landscape changed dramatically in 2011, when lawmakers eliminated redevelopment funding. The state took billions of dollars off the table, drying up funding for new projects across the state.
It took some creative thinking and planning to develop a new mechanism to build new housing with affordable rents. The answer for us was creating projects that had both market-rate units and units where rents were restricted.
The rents from market-rate units helped subsidize the affordable units. The blend of affordable and market-rate housing gave us a way to cover construction costs, while ensuring that low- and middle-income residents were not pushed out of their communities.
In Sacramento, we brought this vision to projects such as the Hardin Building, the WAL Artists Lofts and the Lofts at Globe Mills, which all contain units at various prices. The Hardin, for example, contains 40 percent market rate housing and 60 percent affordable. Those who demonstrate financial need can rent a studio for about $600 per month. The same unit on the open market rents for about $1,500.
There is also a community benefit to these types of mixed-use projects by preventing the economic segregation that we often see as housing prices increase. Too often, low-income people are pushed out of their communities and left to live only with others in their financial situation, while neighborhoods gentrify and become increasingly exclusive. That is not the type of city we want in Sacramento. But if Proposition 10 passes, that would be hard to avoid.
It would make it less likely that we build affordable units anywhere, including mixed-use projects underway in downtown Sacramento.
Sacramento and the entire state are in the midst of an unprecedented housing crunch, and we want to be part of the solution. But Proposition 10 is bad public policy that takes us in the wrong direction. It will make it nearly impossible for policymakers and community leaders to solve our state’s housing crisis.