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Paying More and More and More for Affordable Housing

April 20, 2021

Dear Editor,

State housing mandates and Santa Monica:

The State wants the City to build 6,000 affordable housing units at the city’s cost ("Council Begins Exploring Ways to Triple Santa Monica's Affordable Housing," March 26, 2021).

At $400,000 per unit (a typical cost for city construction) Total cost: $2.4 Billion

If the money is borrowed for 30 years then with interest it will be $4 Billion.

At $4 Billion then it will be $85,000 that currently resident households, both renters and owners, will have to pay to subsidize the rents of those who don’t live here yet.

(And no. . . private developers will not build if it means 80 percent of units must be affordable rentals.)

$85,000. Plus a dramatic increase in traffic, water prices, jammed schools for which we no longer receive State funding, and all the extra City staff who will need to be paid by current residents.

So it’s not just $4 Billion -- there will be heavy, permanent running costs that the residents of the affordable buildings will pay little towards, leaving current residents to cover.

If Santa Monica had not built any affordable housing in the past it might make more sense. But Santa Monica has been a leader in affordable housing.

Over the last 25 years we have built 1,700 affordable homes. We have a 1/2 percent sales tax to pay for more affordable housing, and steep affordability fees on anything related to real estate.

All this counts for nothing as far as the State is concerned. Santa Monica has gone far beyond other cities and gets zero credit, and massive mandates as a reward.

If our city had made even the slightest push-back, then the State might have assigned us more reasonable numbers than this absurd and utterly unachievable mandate.

$85,000 from every household in the city. And then more, and more, and more. . .

The City could sue the State to stop this. Judges would laugh at the State's complicated formulas, and demand that affordable housing be divided equally between all cities, with credits for existing affordable housing.

That is the trouble with complicated formulas, you often end up with bizarre and extreme results, such as ours.

Or the City could pay a small penalty, and it would all just go away. And we would still have far more affordable housing than pretty much any other city in the state.

$85,000 from every household in the city. And then more, and more. . .

With the residents asleep our Councilmembers have become the servants of the construction industry, and are treating residents like a piggy bank -- raiding both our finances and our quality of life. And we have only ourselves to blame.

Peter Borresen
Santa Monica


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