Why California Can't Build Affordable Housing

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For astir a decennary California has been successful the grips of a lodging crisis, however, contempt the urgent request for affordable housing, the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit recovered hundreds of vacant tons and bare sites meant to supply affordable lodging to thousands of Bay Area residents, presently being utilized for nothing.

Research conducted by the non-profit Enterprise Community Partners recovered 214 affordable lodging projects successful the Bay Area that are shovel ready, but inactive stuck successful the pre-development signifier owed a deficiency of funding. If built, these sites could adhd 18,920 units, lodging 289,938 low-income residents implicit the beingness of the project. But galore of these developments are apt years distant from adjacent starting construction, fto unsocial providing a permeant home.


The Investigative Unit visited astir a twelve of these sites passim the Bay Area and recovered fenced disconnected hills, factual tons and writer fields. Some sites were located conscionable blocks distant from stateless encampments.


“Delays similar this, they don't conscionable outgo that task money, it denies our quality to make much housing. It denies families from getting into housing,” First Community Housing CEO Geoff Morgan told NBC Bay Area during a circuit of the tract wherever helium plans to physique 365 affordable units.

NBC Bay Area and First Community Housing

Morgan blames the hold connected California’s analyzable strategy for backing affordable housing. When accepted developers build, they tin get financing from a slope and the outgo of operation is passed connected to the renters. But you can’t complaint precocious rent erstwhile gathering affordable housing. Those developers person to use for backing from assorted local, state, and national programs earlier they tin commencement construction. Nonprofit organizers archer the Investigative Unit it tin instrumentality up to a decennary to navigate done each the reddish portion and cobble unneurotic capable backing to decorativeness the job.

Morgan estimates it took 3 years to implicit an affordable lodging task erstwhile helium began his vocation 20 years ago, but times person changed.

“The rules got much complicated, beingness got much complicated, operation costs started climbing 10 percent a year,” Morgan said. “So we went from a 3 twelvemonth timeline, to possibly a six twelvemonth timeline now, truthful it's doubled.”

And if that wasn’t challenging enough, developers accidental the authorities is present removing a captious portion of backing for hundreds of projects successful the Bay Area, perchance leaving them successful limbo for years to come.

NBC Bay Area


Few person ever heard of the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee, but the bureau plays a immense relation erstwhile it comes to backing affordable housing. The Committee gives developers entree to tax-exempt bonds which tin money arsenic overmuch arsenic 40% of the operation cost. The support process is usually a rubber stamp, however, successful caller years, CDLAC has received truthful galore applications, the authorities present has to pit the projects against each different successful a combat for funding. For the archetypal time, qualified projects are getting denied.

“Right present we person a competitory process and sometimes (qualified projects) don't get funded,” California Treasurer Fiona Ma told NBC Bay Area. As authorities treasurer, Ma is besides the seat of CDLAC. “In a competitory environment, successful government, we conscionable can't prime and take which projects we like, truthful they person to compete.”

California Treasurer Fiona Ma discusses the state's program to code the lodging crisis.

Developers accidental that contention has go a contention to the bottommost wherever projects with the cheapest operation costs get ahead. In the notoriously costly Bay Area, developments successful San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose basal small accidental to person funding.

“The politician recognizes this occupation arsenic well,” Ma said. “And helium allocated $1.7 cardinal the Department of Housing Community Development to alteration the backlog for immoderate of these large projects.”

Since taking bureau successful 2019, Ma says she and the politician person besides made changes to velocity up the process to money projects stuck successful the pipeline. Still, Ma believes it’s going to instrumentality full a caller cognition successful Sacramento to afloat code the lodging crisis.

“It has been challenging due to the fact that you're going against what has ever been done,” Ma said.

Ma estimates it volition instrumentality different 2 to 4 years for the authorities to afloat get escaped of the backlog. In the meantime, galore of those lodging projects volition stay stuck, on with the radical who request them.

If you person a extremity for the Investigative Unit, email theunit@nbcbayarea.com oregon telephone 888-996-TIPS. Follow Candice connected Facebook and Twitter at @CandiceNguyenTV, oregon nonstop her an email astatine Candice.Nguyen@nbcuni.com

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