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Affordable Housing Shortage in Santa Monica Subject of Special Hearing

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

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

September 22, 2105 -- Trying to find housing in Santa Monica has become difficult for families making less than $75,000 a year, one of many challenging statistics that the City’s Housing Commission will grapple with Saturday.

In a special meeting, the Commission will hear from the public and other “stakeholders” about the rising cost of housing and what many believe is a critical shortage of affordable rental   housing in the increasingly upscale beachside city.

About half of the city’s households earn $75,000 or less, but only 32 percent of Santa Monica’s housing stock “is affordable to these families, and the gap continues to grow,” the six commissioners wrote in a letter seeking public input for the meeting.

The session will take place at the Santa Monica Main Public Library, 601 Santa Monica Boulevard, at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Finding affordable housing in the city was “once a concern limited to the homeless, disabled and working poor,” the commissioners wrote.

Increasingly, however, “even young middle income working households can no longer find reasonably priced rental housing in the City,” they wrote. “Ownership housing is simply out of reach for most young families.”

Faced with what many consider an affordable housing crisis, the City’s Housing Commission in April began a comprehensive analysis of the issue, said Jim Kemper, housing administrator for the city. A draft report is expected in November, with a final plan scheduled for December, he said.

Housing officials already have met with local officials, affordable housing developers and other experts during its analysis.

Developing affordable housing has been a top priority for decades in a City known for its strict rent control policies and public financing of affordable housing. But meeting that priority has become increasingly challenging after several major actions at the State level.

The 1985 Ellis Act gave rent-controlled landlords the right to go out of the rental business by converting properties into condominiums, and in 1994, the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act allowed them to raise the rents to market rates when most units were vacated.

According to City officials, the two measures resulted in the amount of housing affordable to low and moderate income households dropping from 60 percent in 1998 to 32 percent in 2014.

As of last December 31, some 17,000 of the City’s approximately 52,000 residential units

remained affordable to low and moderate income households, and Santa Monica continues to lose an average of approximately 500 long-term rent controlled units each year, the letter and other reports have said.

“At the current rate of attrition, the City would likely lose most of its affordable housing stock over the next 20 years,” the letter concludes.

Santa Monica, like other cities, was also hard hit in 2011 when the State abolished local redevelopment agencies.  The City had been spending some $15 million a year of those funds on affordable housing, but it has yet to find money to replace it.

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