Norma Torres

Assemblywoman Norma J. Torres
Created: 01/28/2012 06:06:11 AM PST

The state Supreme Court’s ruling which eliminated redevelopment agencies has created uncertainty for cities and counties engaged in redevelopment activities. Redevelopment has been used as a tool by many cities and counties to successfully revitalize communities. The court’s decision throws into question how cities and counties will pay for infrastructure, housing and retail projects in blighted communities.

Although I was not surprised by the court’s decision, I was disappointed. I voted for a two-part solution to offset the state’s budget gap while continuing redevelopment on a smaller, voluntary basis. Without the voluntary program communities will no longer have the tools redevelopment agencies offered for affordable housing production and economic development.

It seems counterintuitive in this down real estate market that there is a lack of affordable housing, but many people still pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing, which is the standard test of affordability. Incomes are down, unemployment is high, and what might have seemed like an affordable rent a few years ago does not anymore.

At the same time, two key sources of funding for affordable housing that have supported construction in the past are gone: voter-approved state bonds and redevelopment agencies’ Low-and Moderate-Income Housing Funds. Redevelopment produced close to $1 billion for affordable housing each year and a 2006 voter-approved bond contained $2.85 billion to support construction of affordable housing units. These sources of funding are gone and California needs multiple, real, and sustainable sources of funding for affordable housing to replace them.

For several years affordable housing advocates, legislators and others have discussed the need for a state-funded permanent source for affordable housing, the Holy Grail of affordable housing finance. We need a dedicated source of money that does not rely upon the health of the state general fund or voter-approval every four years to fund the pipeline of affordable housing projects.

To read entire column, click here.