Solving the affordable housing crisis is simple and concrete. All we need to do is build enough homes that people can afford.
The biggest obstacles to building affordable homes are (1) the lack of money, (2) the lack of adequately zoned land, and (3) the lack of political will. SCANPH's policy work addresses all three issues.
Affordable developments are not built in the free market because the amount a developer can collect in affordable rents does not cover the land, construction, and operating costs. There must be government subsidies to make up the gap between the moneys collected in rent on the one hand and the cost to build and maintain the building on the other hand. Thus, a large portion of SCANPH's policy work is securing adequate funding streams to build affordable homes.
On the Federal Level
We work at the federal level to augment the funding for affordable homes provided in the federal budget as well as advocate for funding of the National Housing Trust Fund. We work on strengthening the pipeline for new affordable home development through advocacy for greater community reinvestment and growth of the low income housing tax credit market.
On the Local and State Level
At the state level, we worked to pass the last two California bonds for affordable homes. Locally, we educate cities and counties about the benefits of local affordable housing trust funds in terms of leveraging state and federal dollars into the locality and providing decent homes for all their working families.
In addition to public financing, affordable developments need lots that are zoned to permit sufficient rental or ownership homes on them to make the cost per home low enough to support a lower rent or mortgage payment. Localities thus must have sufficient land zoned to accommodate higher densities.
As such, much of our policy work at the state and local levels involves passing land-use laws that permit higher density, require less parking, and streamline the approval process for affordable developments. For example, at the state level, we worked to pass SB 1818, which amended the state density bonus law not only to permit developments with some affordable units to build at a higher density but also to entitle them to other development concessions (parking, height) that made it possible to achieve the density bonus. We have also worked with local jurisdictions implementing SB 1818.
We led the Housing LA campaign that persuaded the City of Los Angeles to establish the $100 million affordable housing trust fund and are currently working to secure permanent sources of funding for the fund.
We are also engaged in passing mixed-income ordinances, which both provide public money for affordable homes and achieve the building density needed to build them. They require that a small percentage of homes within all new developments are affordable homes. In return, the developer receives some concessions from zoning regulations that permit more market-rate homes within the development as well. Usually in a few cases, developers may pay a substantial fee instead of building the affordable homes, and this fee is used to fund other affordable developments, through a trust fund or other mechanism.
Political will is essential to ensure both the public financing and the zoning necessary to build affordable homes. In our policy work we educate localities about the benefits of affordable homes. We have published technical guides on the best practices around higher densities and lower parking requirements in multi-family zoned areas. We convene organizations with constituencies in need of affordable homes to advocate for funding and policies that will ensure that more are built. In the Inland Empire we host an annual forum that brings about 100 local governments and developers together around affordable housing.
SCANPH 2010 POLICY PRIORITIES
The 2010 SCANPH POLICY AGENDA has been approved by the SCANPH Board of Directors and is available at this link.