E4E’s Response to Arguments Against Affordable Housing
We believe that truly effective housing advocacy requires strong political will and respectful collaboration of stakeholders involved, including elected officials, city staff, community affordable advocates, developers and concerned citizens. To be a good advocate, though, you need to be familiar with the most common arguments against affordable housing and how to counter them.
Affordable housing will destroy community character
“Community Character” often refers to geography and architecture. We would argue that people are the backbone of our city’s community character. A key element to support community character is to provide the opportunity for stable housing for our seniors who built this our community, our working families and frontline workers who support our communities, and our recent college graduates. Also, racial, ethnic, and income diversity enhances community character rather than destroys it.
Affordable housing will destroy green spaces
To preserve green space, residents need to be open to developing areas that are considered grayfield (underused real estate assets). There are many locations like these along the El Camino Real corridor where large retail structures remain vacant. We also need to reconsider blanket height limits. Again, along the El Camino Real corridor, there are many plots of land where higher structures will not ruin views or look unsightly.
Too much traffic!
Traffic is reduced when affordable housing communities are built close to transit and urban hubs. Also, providing housing for Encinitas workers who now commute decreases traffic and carbon emissions along the Interstate 5 corridor.
We need strict height limits!
Strict height limits over time are not compatible with severely limited land availability. With limited land, you either build up or build out. Building up decreases the need to encroach on green space. Consider properties that are bordered by tall embankments where increasing a structure height to 3 stories would not impact neighbors’ views.
I worked hard to live here; so can anyone else
Most Encinitans work hard, but thousands of them don’t make enough money to afford a $1 million home. Wages have been stagnating for decades. According to Redfin, the median price of a home in our city is $1.6M, which means anyone with a family income of less than $100K can’t afford to buy. This is compounded by historic redlining and restrictive covenants that prevented BIPOC families particularly from accumulating generational wealth.
The inclusionary rate should be 50%, not 20%!
Demanding an inclusionary rate that’s way too high, like 50%, is really just a way to stop affordable housing developments completely, since rates this high make projects economically infeasible. The people making this argument have been asked to produce one “proof of concept” of a 50% inclusionary rate development and so far they have not provided an example in the State of California. The City of Encinitas is not in the landowning business. Private developers are landowners and to ask a for profit developer to provide 50% inclusionary rate when the average cost of the production of a housing unit in The City of Encinitas is $300,000.00, places the City at risk for developers to file lawsuits claiming “the taking of private property.”
Affordable housing lowers property values
Shelterforce looked at 62 studies on the effects of affordable housing on property values. In 29 studies, affordable housing actually raised property values; in 27, the effects were neutral; 5 had mixed effects; and one had negative effects: “This perennial fear of neighbors has been the subject of repeated academic study by a wide range of research teams under a wide range of conditions, and the consensus is overwhelmingly that well-designed, well-maintained affordable housing does not lower property values — and in some cases it might raise them!”
100% affordable housing projects are nothing but tenements
100% affordable projects can be beautiful and functional. Just look at the communities of La Costa Paloma Apartments in Carlsbad and Cielo Carmel in Carmel Valley, where residents are thriving.
Encinitas should fight the State of California housing laws
Constantly filing lawsuits is expensive. Our city has already spent $2.4 million in its failed lawsuits against the state. It is better to comply with State law in a manner that provides Encinitas residents with a say and preserves the things we love about Encinitas. It is the sworn responsibility of elected city officials to carry out state law. In addition, defiance of state housing laws disqualifies the city from many types of grants, such as funds for infrastructure. The California Department of Housing and Community Development has an explanation of the severe penalties for non-compliance, including loss of permitting authority, requirements for mandatory compliance within 120 days, suspension of local control on building matters, and court approval of housing developments. If non-compliance persists, the courts may multiply financial penalties by a factor of six. Finally, the courts may appoint an agent with full and final control over the housing element, with no say from city officials.
The city is suing its residents!
You may have seen the yard signs proclaiming, “The Mayor Sued Me!” These are referring to the conflict in the law created by Proposition A, passed in 2013, and the 5th Cycle Housing Element, ratified by the State of California in 2019. The city could not move forward without getting a judge to decide on the conflict. This required them to name a defendant, and the only viable candidate was “Preserve Prop A,” a group of about 100 people who conceived the initiative and fought to maintain it. It’s important to note that Encinitas is not suing the people in “Preserve Prop A” in the traditional sense, i.e., for damages or other penalties. They simply want legal clarification to eliminate the conflict. Specifically, they need to exempt development projects that include affordable housing. Private projects that, for example, want to build more market rate units than the law allows would still be subject to Prop. A. The City of Encinitas has spent more than $2 million fighting CA housing laws, money that was wasted, since the State of California doesn’t care if Encinitans vote in a measure that contradicts the law.
Local government officials are corrupt and doing backdoor deals with developers
One common strategy used by residents who wish to challenge new development – and affordable housing development particularly – is to make accusations specific to local government officials and city staff when affordable housing developments are presented to the Planning Commission and City Council for a vote.
What these residents fail to recognize is that our local government officials and city staff are obligated to uphold fair housing laws implemented by the State of California Housing and Community Development Department and local government ordinances. Whether residents like these laws or not, local officials must follow these laws and regulations or increase the likelihood that the State will exercise greater control over local land, and/or our City will face lawsuits at the hands of the State, developers, residents and/or tenant organizations.
In all cases, these claims have been made with no evidence to back them up. They are meant to cast suspicion on the motives of government officials.