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Affordable Housing Construction in Santa Monica Drops Dramatically

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

February 13, 2015 -- After hitting a high point, the amount of affordable housing constructed in Santa Monica has taken a dramatic drop, according to City housing officials.

Affordable housing construction fell from totaling 56 percent of all units built in the city during the 2013-2014 fiscal year that ended July 1, to just 19 percent of units currently being built, officials reported.

The culprit is primarily the dissolution of Santa Monica’s redevelopment agency, said Jim Kemper, housing administrator for the city.

“The funding has run out,” said Kemper. “There is nothing in the pipeline” to replace it.
The city was receiving about $17 million for affordable housing before its redevelopment agency -- like its 400 counterparts in the rest of California – was abolished in 2012, Kemper said, adding that it will be a challenge for the City to come up with replacement funding.

In November, Santa Monica voters rejected Measure H, which would have created new funds for affordable housing by significantly increasing property taxes on transactions of more than $1 million. The measure was soundly defeated with 58 percent of the voters opposing it.

Under City law, developers can opt of providing affordable housing by paying a fee of $29.79 per square foot for apartments and $34.80 per square foot for condominiums, Kemperer said.

According to the new report filed by the city Housing and Economic Development Department, a total of 458 residences were completed in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, of which 257 – or 56 percent – were considered affordable.

That far exceeded the requirement, approved by voters in 1990, that 30 percent of multi-family housing created on an annual basis be affordable to moderate-income residents. It also fulfilled the requirement that at least 15 percent of the affordable units be targeted toward low-income people.

But the picture is far different for multi-family residences still being constructed. Those total 366 units, and only 71 are earmarked for affordable housing, or 19 percent, the report said.

Another 13 units are only in the planning stages, none of which include an affordable housing component, according to the report.

The drop in affordable housing is notable for a city that prides itself on the goal of providing affordable places to live an area that is one of the most expensive in the nation.
“We’ll have to go back and see whether they are ways to continue our goal of affordable housing, Kemper said. “It’s amazing that this city by the sea has been able to produce so much affordable housing. “

Without a dedicated funding source to replace redevelopment dollars “it will be extremely hard” to continue that record, he said.

Of the 71 residences now being constructed as affordable housing, 46 are for “very low-and-low income residents,” the report found, and 25 are being earmarked for moderate-income residences.

Kemper noted that the amount of affordable housing built since voters ushered in requirements has varied.  The report showed that the 257 affordable units built in the 2013-2014 fiscal year were the most since the 1994-1995 fiscal year.

In all, 4,710 multi-family units were built between the 1994-1995 fiscal year and the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the report said.

Of that total, 1,884 units were earmarked as affordable, or 40 percent. Of the total, 25 percent fell under the category of being very-low or low-income housing.

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