Communities Inclined to Undercut Affordable Housing Plans

The trend to weaken policies that require affordable housing to be built for low and very low income people seems to be making its rounds in this country’s cities and counties.

Sacramento County is the latest to overturn a landmark policy passed in 2004 that ensured homes were built for low income people within developments. This would have in part ended the segregation of poorer people in certain areas of the county and allowed them access to the better schools and amenities that come with new development.

The now-defunct ordinance required developers to build 15 percent of units in master planned communities as housing for low-, very low- and extremely-low income people. As soon as it was passed, developers brought lawsuits against the policy, hamstringing attempts to put it into action. The downturn in the economy dealt a blow as well when the housing industry virtually shut down and new home building came to a standstill.

The county, now eager to court developers in a slightly better economic climate, has approved a new policy which allows them to pay a fee-only amount of $2.50 per square foot to a trust set up for building affordable housing elsewhere—that is, not in the neighborhoods they are developing.

Darryl Rutherford, head of the Sacramento Housing Alliance said, “Sacramento County’s policy was kind of one of a kind” and reminded the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors that the low income people in the county “are our fellow Sacramentans on social security, disabled people, seniors, veterans and other community members on fixed incomes.”

Rutherford said his pleas and those of homeless organizations, faith-based groups and social service workers “fell on deaf ears.”

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