The Magical City Hall Construct of “Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing”

| July 4, 2021 | 0 Comments

On June 17, 2021, NBC 7 San Diego’s Artie Ojeda interviewed the chair of Neighbors For A Better San Diego (NFABSD) about San Diego’s destructive new ADU/JADU zoning ordinance.

The City of San Diego was quoted in the article, “ADU’s and JADU’s are an effective, successful source of naturally occurring affordable housing.”

Within an hour of publication, Mayor Todd Gloria’s deputy chief of staff, Nick Serrano reached out to NBC 7 to throw in a plug for Toni Atkins’ neighborhood-killing SB 9, repeating the new tagline naturally affordable housing.

Devised to sugar-coat San Diego’s neighborhood killing zoning changes, this term is the new catch-phrase of City Hall and developers. We at NFABSD challenge the City to provide any objective studies that support that statement. Further, we will explain here why there is nothing “natural” about the ADU’s produced by the City’s new ADU/JADU zoning code §141.0302 and why we do not believe it will produce the intended/claimed results. Let’s begin with just a few key points….

• San Diego’s ADU Granny Towers will not produce “naturally affordable housing” but will, in fact, destroy single-family neighborhoods while producing very little affordable housing overall.

• San Diego’s failure to collect ADU developer fees will overburden neighborhood infrastructure and San Diego taxpayers

• Any savings developers realize from San Diego waiving developer fees are unlikely to be passed on to renters

• San Diego’s ADU code will overwhelmingly produce market-rate housing

• Any affordable housing produced by San Diego’s ADU code will disappear in 15 years

• There is no evidence to suggest that San Diego’s ADU code will result in lowering rent or real estate costs in any meaningful way over the long term.

San Diego’s ADU Code waives all developer fees on all ADUs/JADUs of any size, lowering out-of-pocket costs for developers. This is not a “natural” affordability measure. This is the City subsidizing ADUs through fee waivers, yet developers can pocket those savings instead of passing them on to renters.

Unfortunately, the added density created in single-family neighborhoods will have significant impacts on infrastructure (parks, libraries, roads, sewer, water, etc.) and taxpayers will end up paying because developers were let off the hook.

In Transit Priority Areas, where developers are allowed to build an “unlimited” number of ADUs, only 1 in 5 units, 2 in 7, or 3 in 9 have to be affordable and the remaining units will presumably be rented at market rate. This doesn’t happen naturally, this is a function of San Diego’s ADU code.

Outside Transit Priority Areas up to three ADUs and one JADU are now allowed where one home currently sits, increasing density on a single-family lot to a total of five units.

The bulk of the ADUs constructed will be market rate, and after 15 years all those “deeded affordable ADUs” will revert to market rate and San Diego will lose what few “affordable ADUs” they unnaturally enticed developers to build in single-family zoned neighborhoods.

NFABSD has done extensive research on this topic and we can find no evidence that allowing unlimited backyard ADUs will decrease the cost of housing. In fact, we continue to find real-life examples that show upzoning creates the opposite effect, increasing land value and pricing out actual home buyers.

Professor Patrick Condon (MLA, BSc University of Massachusetts), who teaches at the University of British Columbia School of Architecture, is a notable Canadian urban designer, former city planner, author of several planning books in the field of sustainability and public engagement, and was for years a staunch supporter of widespread upzoning of Vancouver as a means to reduce housing costs.

Condon now acknowledges that upzoning in Vancouver backfired (2/7/21):

“We have incrementally quadrupled the density of Vancouver,but we haven’t seen any decrease in per square foot costs. That evidence is indisputable. We can conclude there is a problem beyond restrictive zoning. No amount of open zoning or allowing for development will cause prices to go down. We’ve seen no evidence of that at all. It’s not the NIMBYs that are the problem – it’s the global increase in land value in urban areas that is the problem.”

We would encourage anyone interested in this topic to read Professor Condon’s latest book, “Sick City.”

Buzzwords and taglines won’t put lipstick on this pig. Naturally occurring affordable housing is a City Hall construct that means nothing, no matter how many times they repeat it.

There are better solutions for San Diego. Don’t accept the destruction of single-family neighborhoods.

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