February 28, 1989 - From the February, 1989 issue

What's Next For Housing? Focus Shifts to the City Council

On December l, 1988, the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Committee for Affordable Housing released its report which assessed the seriousness of the city's housing problems and established a framework for addressing them. Two months later, one bond measure is on the April ballot, many of the initiatives are in City Council committees. and a Housing Commission will soon be established to develop housing policy for the city.

Among the initiatives of the Committee were suggestions: to more than triple the current housing resources from $90 million annually to $300 million annually; to create a Housing Commission to generate those resources as well as review housing planning; to preserve the affordability of units which are threatened by seismic rehabilitation or the expiration of federal rent restrictions.

Gary Squier, Housing Coordinator for the Mayor, is now responsible for tracking the 10 initiatives which were a direct result of the Blue Ribbon Committee (see box below). One attempt to increase housing revenues by $5-15 million is the establishment of housing linkage fees. The Committee estimated that there are 5 million square feet of commercial construction annually, and a Community Development Department's task force hopes to charge between $1 and $3 for each square foot of commercial development. One issue the CDD is focusing on is the nexus to be determined between the fees and the commercial project, and the task force will be establishing legal arguments to support the linkage fee. "If you build an office building with workers who need housing, they will be putting a demand on a housing system that is already overtaxed," states Squier.

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In the Committee's discussion of the linkage fee, several of the developers on the Committee pointed out that such an exaction will be more of a problem for those who have already purchased their land and created their budgets. "The exaction hurts landowners more than developers,'' notes Squier.

In other housing news, the Housing Authority will soon elect a new Chairman, to replace recent resignee Alvin Greene, once the seventh member has been appointed. Gary Squier will replace Grace Davis as the Mayor's liaison to the Housing Authority, which will soon begin to prioritize its agenda for the coming year. Employees at the Housing Authority have recently discussed the need to improve the conditions of the 21 housing projects; improve communication and management within the Hous­ing Authority; improve relations with private property owners they lease from; and begin to develop day care and job training for their projects' tenants.

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