Sacramento Business Journal, May 22, 2019

Housing advocates encouraged Sacramento leaders Tuesday to fulfill a component of Measure U and put some of the funds from the voter-approved sales tax into affordable housing.

In particular, Sacramento Housing Alliance said midtown affordable housing project Lavender Courtyard has a $2.5 million gap to go from concept to construction.

“Our neighborhoods cannot afford to wait, and they shouldn’t have to,” said Cathy Creswell, SHA’s board president. While the City Council’s proposal for a 2019-20 city budget wouldn’t use any Measure U money for affordable housing, she said, housing especially for lower incomes has grown increasingly unaffordable in recent years.

Creswell said the alliance’s latest housing update finds 80% of extremely low-income households in Sacramento County are paying more than 50% of income toward housing, while the county has lost more than 68% of the funds for developing affordable housing.

Sacramento Housing Alliance members spoke outside Sacramento City Hall, where the council was meeting later Tuesday. Council members have split over how to spend Measure U dollars in the city budget, with Mayor Darrell Steinberg advocating for community investment while some council members argue that the city has a responsibility to address rising employee pension costs.

The 2019-20 budget would have about $97 million in Measure U dollars to spend. Creswell said local spending on affordable housing would leverage $6 billion in new dollars at the state level, getting more projects off the ground.

Roberto Jimenez, CEO of Lavender Courtyard developer Mutual Housing California, said the project could begin within weeks if the $2.5 million came through.

“The problem is, the gap keeps increasing with the lag of time,” he said, as overall construction costs rise.

Jimenez said Mutual Housing is also exploring another potential source of money at the state level.

In addition to 54-unit Lavender Courtyard, Mutual Housing California also has entitlements but lacks funding for a 122-unit project on Stockton Boulevard, in Sacramento County, Jimenez said.

Putting Measure U money into affordable housing was one of several recommendations SHA made Tuesday for addressing the city’s housing issues.

Other recommendations included adopting tenant protection rules, becoming more competitive for state funding, prohibiting landlords from rejecting housing vouchers and, at the state level, finding a replacement for local redevelopment agencies, which were eliminated in 2011.