Affordable housing in I.E. imperative

EDITORIAL: Affordable housing in I.E. imperative

From The Press-Enterprise 1/6/16

UC Riverside’s Center for Economic Forecasting predicts a 6 percent to 7 percent increase in 2016 for sales of existing homes in the Inland region, as well as a return of home prices in some parts of the region to levels unseen since the housing market boom of the previous decade.

That is good news for a regional housing market that was among the state’s hardest hit during the so-called Great Recession, during which median home prices in the Inland Empire fell nearly 60 percent between 2006 and 2011, according to Real Estate Economics.

Yet, as we celebrate the regional housing market’s rebound, one seemingly insoluble problem remains: the dearth of affordable housing for more than one in five of the region’s families.

Most of that more than one in five is made up of low- and very-low-income families, which spend more than half their incomes on rent, according a 2015 report by the California Housing Partnership Corporation.

To ameliorate the housing woes of that needful population, Riverside and San Bernardino counties need to add another 130,000 rentals to their current combined stock of affordable housing.

That is a daunting challenge. Not the least because there is resistance in all too many communities in both counties to affordable housing development.

Some of that resistance comes from local governments, which prefer retail development – and the sales taxes generated – rather than affordable housing development, which offers comparatively less in local tax revenues. (Sacramento gobbles up most local property taxes.)

No less resistance comes from NIMBY community groups, which profess support for affordable housing, while insisting that their own neighborhoods are unsuitable for such residential developments.

Perhaps the best responses to local governments and local community groups resistant to affordable housing were made by affordable housing developers who participated in the 2015 California Economic Summit, which was held in Ontario last fall.

Affordable housing should be viewed by local governments as “just as much infrastructure as a road or a bridge or a hospital or a school,” said Tony Mize, president of Workforce Homebuilders, a Riverside company that develops and manages affordable housing in Inland Southern California. “You cannot not have housing for your lower-income workforce.”

Indeed, said Steve PonTell, president and CEO of National Community Renaissance in Rancho Cucamonga, “People that are not adequately housed demand more services than the people that are adequately housed.” So it simply is fiscally prudent for local governments, and their taxpaying residents, to encourage, rather than resist, private sector affordable housing development.

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