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Villaraigosa wants RDAs brought back to help with housing crisis
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Antonio Villaraigosa gets it.
The former mayor of Los Angeles running for governor in the June primary is advocating the most pragmatic and proven effective approach when it comes to advancing a solution for California’s worsening affording housing crisis.
While he supports doing another $6 billion bond on top of the $4 billion bond for affordable housing on the November ballot to address affordable housing, he’s made it clear we are part of the problem and that the state made a horrible decision a few years back that needs to be undone.
Villaraigosa is correct to point out there are too many Californians demanding solutions for affordable housing as well as housing to get the homeless off the streets who then fight bitterly to prevent workforce housing, subsidized housing or housing for the homeless to be built anywhere near them.
And while other candidates have based their affordable housing policy platforms around either “yea” or “nay” regarding state bonds for affordable housing, Villaraigosa is the only candidate advocating a tool that has a proven track record. He wants to bring back redevelopment agencies that the state pulled the plug on in 2011 so they could keep spending in Sacramento instead of trimming back state bureaucracy when the Great Recession hit.
A series of 15 bills signed by Gov. Brown last year that includes a $75 real estate transaction tax and the $4 billion bond measure — if voters pass it — could annually help fund upwards of 9,000 to 14,000 affordable housing units according to various backers of the bills. Assuming that number is like every other wild-eyed assumption where the state has grossly over-estimated the bang for the buck and under estimated the cost such as they did for high speed rail, we should be happy if the end result is 5,000 more housing units a year that are defined as affordable.
But whether it’s 5,000 or 14,000 more affordable housing units, the likelihood a single dime would make its way to build affordable housing in cities the size of Manteca is slim to none.
Manteca, using the 20 percent set aside requirement that was part of the RDA law will have created just under 500 affordable housing units using RDA money when the last project involving low-income senior apartments is built on Cottage Avenue.
Compare that to the affordable housing units the state has helped build in Manteca which is zilch.
The nearly 500 figure for Manteca includes workforce apartments on Atherton Drive, several low-income senior apartment complexes, the affordable Cedar Glenn neighborhood and the eight units of the HOPE Family Shelter on Yosemite Avenue. The almost 500 represents long term affordable housing units. That doesn’t include more 1,000 families that either were helped with down payment assistance or with forgivable RDA loans made to lower income seniors to help them make health and safety repairs. That program was aimed at helping keep low income seniors in their homes and to prevent the housing stock from deteriorating.
Bringing back redevelopment agencies makes a lot of sense.
And to make sure affordable housing gets a higher emphasis given how critical workforce housing has become to the economy, 50 percent of all RDA bond proceeds could be required to go to affordable housing initiatives.
That means if Manteca sold a $40 million bond offering as they did a few years before the plug was pulled on the RDA, the city would have $20 million available for affordable housing projects.
If the city were to fully fund a project at current construction and development costs that would likely only provide 120 apartment units for workforce housing similar to Juniper Apartments. The complex is on Atherton Drive east of where the Tesoro Apartments are now under construction.
When that money is wedded with tax credits and other sources as has been done in Manteca in the past, the $20 million could leverage as many as 400 apartment units designated for workforce housing where the household makes up to 120 percent of the city’s median income or low-income housing where a household earns up to 80 percent of the median.
 Based on typical yields, that would provide housing for perhaps 1,100 people. That is 1,100 more qualifying Manteca residents that would have an affordable housing option as opposed to the number that would have them through the November bond election and the $75 real estate transaction fee.
That would leave the city with $20 million to leverage infrastructure or investments that would provide economic growth and combat blight in a bid to provide better employment opportunities so people can afford housing.
Gavin Newsom advocates giving local agencies incentives and punishing them if they don’t come up with affordable housing. Wouldn’t it make more sense to give them proven tools needed to provide affordable housing?

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.