The Sacramento Mayor and City Council are responding to the local housing affordability crisis by holding workshops to educate themselves and get input from the community. The first workshop was held on August 14 and focused on sources of funding to increase the local supply of affordable housing. Speakers invited by the City spoke primarily about the availability of funding tools at the state and federal levels. State Department of Housing and Community Development Director Ben Metcalf reminded the Council that as they prepare to further leverage State affordable housing program funds, the City should identify and commit local financial subsidies–a critical factor in the competition for these funds.
In a discussion about the federal Opportunity Zone program, the Mayor astutely asked if the capital gains investment program directed private investment at affordable housing. In fact, a major problem of the Opportunity Zone legislation is the lack of oversight and income targeting. These flaws have led many community activist and other experts to fear the program will result in low income people currently living in Opportunity Zones to be displaced by escalating rents charged by developers who take advantage of this program.
If passed by City voters in November, Measure U would supplement the City’s general fund and the City Council could vote to allocate funds to the development of rent-restricted affordable housing. Local capital subsidies are a critical piece of the affordable housing financing puzzle. Almost all state and federal funding programs are competitive and rely on the availability of local funds for leverage.
SHA’s Veronica Beaty testified in the public input portion of the workshop. She advised that any public concessions or subsidies to developers should result in the development of housing for those most in need. While there is an increasing need for housing that fits the budget of middle income renters, the people most disadvantaged in this and any market are low wage workers with children, those living on the streets, seniors and people with disabilities living on low and fixed incomes, and young people without benefit of supportive parents. Veronica also urged the City to develop new mechanisms to raise local funds for affordable housing to help leverage State and Federal funds.
SHA appreciates the Mayor’s leadership in bringing these issues forward, and we look forward to the City Council workshop on September 4 addressing exorbitant rent increases and the eviction crisis facing Sacramento renters. People are hurting now, and the affordable home crisis continues unabated. The time to act is now.