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S.D. Falls Far Short of Goal for Low-Income Housing

December 02, 1987|LEONARD BERNSTEIN | Times Staff Writer

Despite the near-record pace of residential construction in fiscal year 1985-86, San Diego fell far short of its goal for constructing housing for the poor, the City Council was told Tuesday.

Senior Planner Judith Lenthall, issuing a housing report card for the city, told council members that the construction of more than 13,000 units of housing "was pointedly directed toward moderate or upper-income affordable housing. The new construction of lower-income affordable housing did not meet either programmatic goals or annual growth needs."

As part of its housing plan for 1985 through 1990, the city had intended to put up 2,247 units of housing affordable to the poor. But only 645 units--29% of the goal--were built, according to the initial review of the Housing Element.

Efforts to rehabilitate low-income housing resulted in 644 refurbished units, just 58% of the yearly goal.

Low-income housing construction was held back by the city's high land prices, sharp budget cutbacks at the federal level and policy decisions to emphasize moderately priced housing because such units require less government assistance than housing for the poor, said Steven Mikelman, director of programs and policy development for the San Diego Housing Commission.

Meanwhile, with the private housing market at full steam, 13,594 new housing units were built between July 1, 1985, and June 30, 1986--an amount equal to the entire housing stock in National City. The new units brought the total number of housing units citywide to nearly 400,000.

That rate of construction was second only to the pace in 1971-72, but pales in comparison with the building rate in 1986-87. Though final statistics are not available, the report estimated that the city built more than 20,000 new units--equal to the total housing stock in La Mesa--during that fiscal year.

The 1985-86 housing growth was responsible for a large increase in the number of vacant apartments in the city, leaving more than 21,000 units without tenants. High vacancy rates continue to plague landlords today.

Nevertheless, San Diego's poorest families, who make up 25% of the city's population, have difficulty securing even a one-bedroom apartment because prices have climbed beyond their reach.

The report calls for more work on residential hotels, homeless shelters and transitional housing for the poor, as well as efforts to spread low-income housing throughout the city.

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