Apartment construction in San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone
Apartment construction in San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

Very few San Diegans can afford to buy a home, and many can’t pay their rent. This is not news, unfortunately. The average home in San Diego sells for $900,000. The average rent is north of $3,000.

We also know it takes years to build a home in San Diego, and government fees account for nearly 40 percent of the costs. Again, these are facts. The results: a massive housing crisis and a homelessness epidemic that’s become a national news story.

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One would think against this backdrop that the San Diego City Council would be eager to make it easier to build more homes San Diegans can afford. Well, sadly, that is not the case.

The council had an opportunity to approve a modest set of policies to incentivize the construction of homes for families, first-time homebuyers, college students, people experiencing homelessness, and middle-income residents. Instead, it rejected Mayor Todd Gloria’s Housing Action Package 2.0 on Monday night.

The naysayers said they voted no for two reasons. First, they said, the mayor’s package includes fee waivers for the development of 3-bedroom units instead of continuing to offer those waivers for the development of studio apartments. The second reason: the proposal would have allowed home builders to build required affordable housing units and new market-rate housing in different locations instead of all together as one development.

The 3-bedroom issue is a huge one for San Diego. We simply do not build enough places for families because it costs so much to do so. The mayor is right to try and spur the development of multi-bedroom homes and apartments. The more fee waivers — for all types of housing — the better.

As for giving builders the flexibility to locate new affordable and new market-rate units in different locations, this is actually policy that market rate and affordable developers agree on. Further, to avoid concentrating low-income housing in poor neighborhoods, the proposal would have required that housing to be built in either moderate- or high-income areas of the city.

San Diego is one of the most expensive cities in America to live. San Diegans want more housing they can afford and fewer government regulations. Decades of bad policies fueled this housing crisis, so standing in the way of modest reforms is not a good idea.

We need lawmakers to create and support housing policies that spur growth. We applaud Mayor Gloria and the council members who voted for his proposal: Stephen Whitburn, Marni von Wilpert and Vivian Moreno. We encourage the other council members to strongly reconsider their positions.

After the vote, Mayor Gloria tweeted: “Let’s be really clear: the lack of affordable housing in San Diego is central to nearly every challenge we face as a city. Homelessness. High cost-of-living. Recruiting and retaining talent, young people, and businesses. There’s only one way to address this: Build. More. Homes.”

We could not agree more.

Lori Pfeiler is the President and CEO of the San Diego County Building Industry Association. Doug Austin is CEO and founder of AVRP Studios.