Affordable housing development High Place East (Daniel Archuleta)

YOUR COLUMN HERE — The new year presents an opportunity to reflect on the City’s remarkable achievements in affordable housing, including production, preservation and rehabilitation, but also to address the challenges in the year ahead.

First, the successes. The City has three principal affordable housing programs and each serves as a vital partner in meeting our goals: 1) inclusionary restricted-deed housing, a local policy requiring affordable units in market-rate developments; 2) Section 8 tenant-based, funded by HUD, subject to owner participation; and 3) non-profit projects, where all the units are affordable and permanently affordable. Because the City has provided financing, the non-profits agree to market to the lower-income households and give preference to our residents and the local workforce.

While the City experiences higher land values and some of the highest rents, the City for over 20 years has been able to ensure a variety of affordable housing options, including for very low-income households. The Housing Commission takes an active role in re-evaluating our policies and in addressing the challenges. Some of our current challenges are: An unwieldy inclusionary housing waiting list; agreement issues related to the Affordable Housing Production program; recent Section 8 opt-outs; and the absence of any local revenue for our nonprofit housing providers.

In order for the city and our Housing Commission to continue our successes and meet the challenges, we need the support of our residents and accurate news coverage. The defeat of ballot Measure H (and not to Measure HH, which passed), is case in point. Despite letters to the editor and campaign negativity, the type of housing funded by the property tax would have had a negligible impact on height, density and traffic. And contrary to our local news, the tax affected commercial sales, not just residential. The omission was unfortunate because commercial properties are more likely to have multiple owners (including non-resident owners) and therefore the tax’s financial burden on these owners is less.

At this time of year, the start of the new year, we need to rejoice in our affordable housing, learn the differences in our programs and value each program as an important partner. The Housing Commission stands ready to address the challenges. Our Commissioners encourage and appreciate the participation of all residents.

Richard Hilton is Chair of the Housing Commission.

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