The LookOut Letters to the Editor
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"An Affordable Housing Legacy"

Wed, 17 Nov 1999

Dear Editor:

Santa Monica has the financial resources to create an Affordable Housing
Legacy for generations to come. The City Council, acting as the
Redevelopment Agency, took a number of steps in the right direction on
November 16, 1999. While these actions are a good start, they fell short of
greatness. Zeal and more attention to details are necessary to create our
Affordable Housing Legacy. Agency leaders must pursue our Affordable
Housing Legacy with the same passion they put forth to acquire the RAND
property. The creation of an Affordable Housing Legacy is a "once in a
lifetime opportunity" which is needed now to help partially compensate for
the loss of approximately 3,000 affordable rental units per year.

The Agency's actions missed two important opportunities. First, the Agency did not establish concrete goals to set aside 50 percent or more of the edevelopment funds required to establish our Affordable Housing Legacy.
Several speakers reminded Agency members of their promise to set aside 50 percent of the redevelopment funds for affordable housing. Staff should have been given clear and specific directions to create a goal that at least 50 percent of the funds will be used for affordable housing.

Second, timing is critical. More cash is needed now to help those in need today and to more productively use housing funds. Each housing dollar today is worth two dollars or more in the years 2005 - 2008 due to rapidly rising property costs. It sounds impressive to say that $44 million dollars will be set aside for affordable housing until one reads the fine print.

How much of that $44 million is really being allocated to current needs? Only $7 million dollars. Here is the math. To begin, subtract $16 million dollars from the $44 million. The $16 million was allocated to acquire the RAND property. The justification is that some affordable housing will be built on the RAND site. Most affordable housing advocates doubt than any units will be available until 2005 - 2008, much too late to help replace the 15,000 or more affordable housing units which will be lost by 2005.

Next, subtract $21 million of long-term funds from the $28 million. The $21
million won't be available until year 2002 or later. That leaves only $7 million. The reality is that out of the $44 million piece of the $120 million redevelopment fund pie, the actual housing dollars available in 2000 or 2001 is a mere weight-watcher's "sliver."

Housing Director Bob Moncrief made a brief, helpful, oral presentation
suggesting a few ways to increase the size and availability of housing funds. The Agency only voted to study of these ideas. Much stronger direction to staff was required.

There are a number of ways to achieve an Affordable Housing Legacy without jeopardizing the RAND acquisition or necessary seismic and other City
infrastructure projects. Here are a few. I am sure there are many more: The City can issue a $28 million affordable housing earthquake redevelopment bond in FY 2000; the City Council could show leadership and put a general obligation bond on the ballot next year to pay for the popular RAND property acquisition, repay the $16 million in housing funds and create a bonus of some affordable units on the RAND site when that housing is eventually built; the City could do more cash management analysis and timing so that funds do not lie idle for one or two years while projects are being designed.

With God's Grace, we are blessed with an abundance of funds over the next
five to ten years. The Agency owes the community a better exploration of all
options on how to produce more cash for affordable housing more quickly.
Councilmember Rosenstein is correct. More public notice and more community
discussion of the $120 million dollars of redevelopment funds is necessary.
The Agency did need to take some actions this week, but given the urgency of
this matter, another Agency hearing should be scheduled in January 2000 to
focus in more detail on funds for affordable housing.

Santa Monica deserves an Affordable Housing Legacy. With proper leadership we can create this Legacy. We have ample redevelopment funds. Let us not stop at "good job." Let us keep working until we do a "great job." Let us firmly establish an Affordable Housing Legacy for our children and for many generations to come.

Paul DeSantis

*The author has donated his time as a member of the Board of Community
Corporation of Santa Monica for fifteen years. He was the main author of the
TORCA affordable home ownership plan.


Solar Web

It is always an amazement to hear people who are stuck on the negative and
cannot move from their position.

Mr. Davison employed lies and chicanery to defeat the placement of the Solar
Web on the south beach.

He is now gearing up to remove Solar Web from any other placement on the
beach. And he tells us that he is an ART LOVER. God help us.

Bruria Finkel
Santa Monica

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