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New Santa Monica Council Member Ponders Affordable Housing Crunch

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 19, 2015 -- A deep drop in affordable housing in Santa Monica can be temporarily cushioned with slightly less than $30 million cobbled together in the budget, but the money won’t last long, Councilmember Susan Himmelrich said Tuesday.

“We’re going to have to try to find some funding options for the future,” Himmelrich said

The City of Santa Monica, like local governments statewide, is in a bind. For two decades, it relied on state redevelopment funds to help build affordable housing in what is otherwise an extremely expensive housing market.

Then, in 2012, California dissolved redevelopment agencies – about 400 in all. That move left Santa Monica without a dedicated source to finance affordable housing.  In recent years, the city had been getting about $15 million annually in redevelopment dollars.

The result was dramatic, according to a recently released report.

Affordable housing construction fell  from totaling 56 percent of all multi-family units built in the city during the 2013-14 fiscal year ending July 1 to just 19 percent of units currently being built, the report said.

The City sold some property and settled a lawsuit. It also combined together other one-shot funding sources that added up to slightly less than $30 million said Jim Kemper, housing administrator for the City.

That should give Santa Monica about two years breathing room, while the City Council figures out where next to find funding for affordable housing, he said.

Himmelrich said one possibility is the use of new “cap and trade” funds from the state tha can be earmarked for affordable housing. “It might be a reasonable alternative,” Himmelrich said.

Unveiled late last month, the program by the state of California Strategic Growth Council aims at reducing greenhouse emissions by encouraging affordable housing near public transit, itself a move toward creating more walkable, or bikeable, communities.

The 2014 state budget sets aside $130 million for its “Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program,” according to the Strategic Growth Council’s website.

Under the draft guidelines, funding would focus on projects that combine affordable housing with transit improvements.

Kemper said City officials are analysing the program requirements to determine is Santa Monica qualifies.

According to Himmelrich, the problem might be Santa Monica's high median income, adding that less affluent communities might get first crack at the money.


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