Located in Bankers Hill, the New Palace Hotel was transformed into 79 affordable studio apartments by San Diego Housing Commission in partnership with a nonprofit affiliate, Housing Development Partners in 2020. Photo courtesy of HDP.

Mayor Todd Gloria announced a package of initiatives Monday aimed at producing more homes across the city that residents of all income levels can afford.

“A roof over your head at a price you can afford is the goal of this housing package,” Gloria said. “Whether you’re a senior who has lived in San Diego for decades or you’re a student getting an education from one of our world-class universities, I want to make sure that there is a future for you here.

“To do so, we need to build a lot more homes that are affordable at varying income levels,” he continued. “This series of initiatives will help do that.”

At a news conference Monday morning, Gloria and other city officials outlined the proposed initiatives being developed by the city’s Planning Department to expedite the creation of housing options throughout the city for everyone, regardless of age, income or neighborhood. The housing package is dubbed “Homes For All of Us.”

“The initiatives we’re unveiling today will help us build more affordable homes faster, and create neighborhoods where San Diegans have choices to get around the city in more sustainable ways,” said Mike Hansen, city planning director. “Our city staff are focused on finding creative options that will increase access to housing that families, students, seniors and current and future San Diegans can afford.”

According to an estimate by the city, San Diego will need to nearly triple annual housing production to meet the needs of its residents during the next decade.

Among the initiatives introduced to help along that goal is “Blueprint San Diego,” intended to place the city’s housing, mobility and climate goals at the forefront of the community planning process. It is intended to streamline the Community Plan update process, shortening plan completion dates from four to five years to two to three years. Gloria said the changes will lead to more local housing opportunities, faster infrastructure improvements and the city meeting its climate and transportation mode-share goals sooner by aligning housing production with transit.

A middle-income housing working group of resident volunteers will formulate and evaluate ways to incentivize building more housing for families earning 80% to 120% of the Area Median Income.

Other initiatives include housing at city facilities, on underused commercial sites, updating the city code to allow affordable housing in all neighborhoods, a housing accessibility program for disabled and older San Diego residents, incentivizing housing construction on existing auto-oriented locations, such as car washes or repair shops, in areas near buses or trolleys and requiring new projects on residential sites to replace any affordable units and provide affected residents enhanced protections and affordable housing options.

“It’s not just that we need more housing at all income levels — we need it everywhere in the city,” said Stephen Russell, executive director of the San Diego Housing Federation. “The only way we will meet our climate action and economic equity goals is if housing is accessible to our working families and seniors in every community in San Diego, near the jobs, transit, retail and social opportunities that our region offers.”

The city also released its 2021 Annual Housing Report Monday, which shows the city is continuing to see progress in housing production thanks to the implementation of existing programs. For example, during the past five years, San Diego has seen the largest increase ever in the construction of affordable housing.

“Housing is a personal issue, everyone needs safe housing and we don’t have enough,” said Lori Holt Pfeiler, president and CEO of the Building Industry Association of San Diego County. “Our communities suffer when families have to double up and pay more than half their incomes on housing.

“Our middle wage earners are the backbone of our economy and suffer the most with housing shortages,” she said. “These initiatives will help produce the housing we all know we need.”

–City News Service

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