What is the Housing Puzzle?
Everybody who is living in Santa Cruz deserves a place to live. The federal government’s guidelines say no one should be paying more than 30% of their salary into rent. We know that many, according to Steve McKay and Miriam Greenberg’s research (http://noplacelikehomeucsc.org/en/about/) that many are in fact “rent-burdened,” and paying upwards to 70% of their income towards rent. So, what can be done?
First, we can make developers produce 25% of their rental units affordable, according to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines. Secondly, the city council can pass a rent freeze and just cause eviction leading up to a communitywide rent control signature gathering effort, which is set to begin in January. Third, the city council can fully fund a 24/7 emergency shelter with “wrap-around” services. We can also urge the city council to ONLY work with non-profit housing providers, open a tenant’s rights office at city hall, demand the university house its students on campus, pass a speculation tax on home-flipping, and put a 3% hotel tax increase in order to raise around $3 million a year for an affordable housing fund.
So, what do we do?
I very much want to see a housing bond put forward to purchase, fix up, and maintain houses and apartments as affordable units, in perpetuity. $250 million to $300 million countywide bond would likely add less than $20 to everybody’s property bill. It should be on the November 2018 ballot.
I have fears that working with for-profit developers will yield few units of affordable housing, and not very much is collected in in-lieu fees either, given the enormous need we have. As a community, we’ve got to demand more affordable units from for-profit developers than previous councils have in the name of the community.
I would like to work with council colleagues and the community to address our Santa Cruz housing crisis…My interests include:
- limiting the number of short-term rentals (right now we passed an ordinance that limits it to 550 permits. I voted no because I thought around 300 permits seemed right.)
- incentivizing the building of ADUs (accessory dwelling units in back of main house)
- passing a just-cause eviction ordinance to protect tenants
- confronting the university on its growing student body and non-growing bed space problem and limit them to housing all of their students over 19,500;
- seriously begin tackling the rising and pervasive community challenge of homelessness and houselessness. We need a 24/7 emergency shelter, some of the bond money should be included for a shelter.
Let’s keep each other apprised on these issues and make sure we show up at meetings, discussions and forums to make our case that, a) this is what a housing crisis looks like and b) we are not mourning, we are organizing renters, homeowners, students and the homeless alike.
You are not alone in your concerns, and we must be ready to show up when it counts most (like the next three city council meetings), advocate for affordability, vote, and keep talking to our neighbors as we search for solutions together.