Housing in Brief: San Diego Council Asks Voters to Decide on $900 Million Housing Bond

Plus: A $100 million housing relief plan in Minnesota, and using eminent domain for social housing in Los Angeles. 

(Photo by Vanessa Vancour / CC BY 2.0)

San Diego Council Asks Voters to Decide on $900 Million Housing Bond

A $900 million housing bond measure that has been years in the making is finally going to be placed on the ballot this November in San Diego, KPBS reports. The measure would fund construction of around 7,500 new affordable-housing units and be paid for with a property-tax increase, according to the report. The city council agreed on Tuesday to approve the measure for the November election, with the Democratic majority being in support and three Republican and independent council members in opposition, the report said. One of the Democratic members also indicated that she may not support the measure itself, but was in favor of it being put to a vote, the report said. The measure would need to be approved by two thirds of voters.

As Next City has previously reported, advocates have been working on a housing bond in San Diego for at least three years. They were confident at the beginning of the year that it would be placed on the ballot, but the COVID-19 pandemic threw the effort into doubt. Proponents have said the bond would provide permanent supportive housing for all who need it in San Diego. As KPBS reported, its fate is still far from certain. The measure would require voters to approve a property tax increase starting at $3 per $100,000 of home value and gradually increasing to as much as $21 per $100,000, the report said. The median home value in San Diego is $679,568, according to Zillow.

Hotels as Housing

American cities are bracing for an unprecedented wave of evictions as protections are starting to expire, and a group of researchers with the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy argue in a new report that Los Angeles should acquire more hotels to provide permanent affordable housing. The report, “Hotel California: Housing the Crisis,” is part of the Institute’s series “Housing Justice in the Time of COVID-19.” In the report, the group argues that residential and luxury hotels in Los Angeles should be acquired, including by eminent domain, and converted to social housing, a move that could put 36,000 to 70,000 hotel rooms to use as housing.

“Publicly subsidized hotel development has mediated an extractive relationship between capital and community,” the report says. “It is time to redirect public resources and public purpose tools such as eminent domain for low-income and extremely low-income housing, especially in Black and Brown communities where public investment has primarily taken the form of policing.”

The authors argue that Project Roomkey, California’s effort to use hotels to house people experiencing homelessness, has been inadequate. They note, as other advocates have in San Francisco, that property in low-income neighborhoods could be vulnerable to acquisition by profit-driven investors in the wake of the COVID-19 recession. And they argue, as other advocates have in L.A., that eminent domain should be used to address the housing crisis.

“We anticipate that political actors in Los Angeles will wring their hands in despair upon reading this report, arguing that the costs of public acquisition of hotels and motels, of their conversion into livable spaces, and of social housing will run too high,” the authors conclude. “… The public resources for such housing exist. As the People’s Budget LA has shown, what is needed is a shift in priorities, from cops to care, from police to housing, from racial oppression to justice.”

Read the entire report here.

Minnesota Launches $100 Million Housing Assistance Program

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said the state will enact a $100 million plan to “help prevent evictions, prevent homelessness and maintain housing stability” for people impacted by COVID-19, according to a report on KSTP Eyewitness News in Minneapolis. The program will be funded with money from the federal CARES Act, according to the report. The state has already spent $26 million to support homeless shelters and has created an additional 2,100 “safe” beds, the report said. The program will be administered through local housing organizations, governments, nonprofits, and federally recognized tribes, according to a state website. The state is accepting applications from potential administrators through next week. The assistance program will help people pay for housing costs if they have gotten sick or lost their job because of the pandemic, according to the website.

“Minnesota faced a housing crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic began, and for some Minnesotans, a lost job or unexpected expenses have put their housing at risk,” Minnesota Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan said, according to KTSP. “This housing assistance will help us keep individuals and families in their homes throughout this pandemic.”

Other housing assistance programs in cities have been quickly overwhelmed. The website for a rent relief program in New York apparently crashed after just 37 minutes, according to one housing advocate on Twitter.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.

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Tags: new york cityaffordable housinglos angelescovid-19minneapolissan diegorent

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