Helping Our Peninsula's Environment


Making Existing Housing Permanently Affordable - Without New Buildings

(c) Copyright 2002-2006 David Dilworth

Affordable Housing is not within the scope of HOPE's Mission. However, preventing and avoiding the environmental impacts of new buildings clearly is, and since there are ways to fully avoid environmental impacts in creating affordable housing, HOPE has an interest in explaining these alternatives. HOPE has no policy or position on any of the six alternatives explained below, but feels they should be included in the public debate.

Seven Simple & Low Cost Ways To Create Permanently Affordable Housing - Without New Buildings.

We have two crises here on our Monterey peninsula an environmental crisis and an affordable housing crisis. Both are vitally important to our community. Neither is currently being effectively addressed by our local governments, and neither needs to be worsened by effective solutions.

Developers are kicking each other out of the way to "help cure" the affordable housing problem with their plan to (fasten your seat belt because it is so hard to believe --) build more houses! Developers often do not even try to disguise their unalloyed greed and avarice to build our way out of the problem - rather than genuinely solve it. Their answer of course will even further damage our water crisis and unsolvable traffic problems.

Worse, developers refuse to --

  • Solve the whole problem (only 15% of a subdivision), or
  • Solve it permanently (30 years maximum).

They will only reluctantly agree to build maybe 15 percent of the new houses affordable and even then - only for 30 years. After 30 years -- all bets are off - even those few 15 percent will go for maximum market rent - or maximum sales price.

Or -- Here are seven real solutions --

1. A City (or County) can buy houses or apartments and, as the landlord, rent them out at affordable prices.1 Existing houses and apartments generally have water and parking established, so should not increase those existing environmental impacts.

2. A city can buy houses or apartments, put a permanent deed restriction on them, then sell them with at most a small loss in resale price. 1

3. A city can convert hotels or motels into affordable housing by purchase. Think of the Caribbean Motel at Lover's Point in Pacific Grove. It already has water and parking (and you can improve the um ... loud - color with a little paint).

4. A city can convert hotels or motels into affordable housing by changing zoning. (Think Caribbean Motel again) A social benefit of converting hotels or motels is that, while the total population of people using the land remains the same, it increases the number of people who are part of the community.

5. A city, or more likely the voters, can pass a strong and retroactive rent stabilization or rent control ordinances. Many cities in California have already done so.2 The retroactive provision is to recover rent raises which are typically raised during the debate and hearings or initiative process.

6. A city can enact a genuine living wage law. Many cities nationwide have done this.

7. A city can help people buy homes with first time buyer assistance. A city can provide low interest rate loans to people buying their first home (as the city of Monterey does), or they can provide grants to help with down payments.

A special reason to seriously consider these alternatives is most can be done immediately without waiting for the delay of a contractor's schedule, and most without an Environmental Impact Report.

Affordable Housing Defined

Next, how do we define the cost of an "Affordable" house? One of the more breathtaking claims you hear these days is how some call a $400,000 dwelling an "affordable house." Governments make a colossal error in the way they and developers calculate house "affordability."

1. Do Millionaires Need Affordable Housing?

Few people realize that millionaires (who essentially all own houses) are included in the calculation to arrive at that disgraceful $400,000 number. Why on earth should millionaires raise the cost of Affordable Housing?

When calculating average income, is there any possible reason millionaires should be included? No, because there is no shortage of housing for millionaires.

How many millionaires had to move away from their hometown because they can't afford to pay rent AND buy food? How many millionaires are homeless and living under bridges? When millionaires are excluded from the calculation, the price of an "affordable house" drops dramatically.

2. Affordable for Who? Millionaires or Limited Income Residents?

I also suggest the income average used to calculate the maximum cost of an affordable house should only include people who live and work in the area and do not currently own a house. It is not reasonable to include people who already own a house. By definition their house was already affordable. This correction brings the cost of an "affordable" home down to an authentic reasonable level so people who live and work in an area can genuinely afford one.


Finally -- for those who still insist on building,

if you really admit we have a problem,

and you really want the problem fixed,

is there any public interest reason not to

require all (100%) new housing to be affordable

until the problem is solved?

This gives everyone an incentive to actually solve it.


1 Subsidy Mitigation - A city or county can at least partially fund any subsidies with fees on businesses which use low-income employees.

2 London, England and Paris, France have had rent control since World War One. The California cities wit h Rent Stabilization ordinances include Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Santa Monica, Calistoga, Berkeley, West Hollywood, Cotati, Palm Springs, Los Gatos, Beverly Hills, Malibu, and East Palo Alto.

Click here for state Dept of Consumer Affairs on Tenants Rights

Click here for more information on Rent Stabilization court cases.

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This Page Last Updated September 16, 2006