Two men familiar to affordable housing developers and advocates in California are among those vying to become the state’s next governor.
State Treasurer Phil Angelides and state Controller Steve Westly have emerged as the Democratic party’s leading candidates in the June 6 primary election. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to win the Republican nomination.
Affordable housing developers know Angelides well. Elected treasurer in 1998, he chairs the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (CTCAC), the agency responsible for allocating about $68 million in federal low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) and about another $70 million in state housing tax credits each year. He is also a member of the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee (CDLAC), which is responsible for allocating approximately $2.8 billion per year in private-activity tax-exempt bond authority.
He co-chaired the successful Proposition 46 campaign in 2002, which provided a $2.1 billion bond for affordable housing.
“I will build on the work I began as treasurer in my Smart Investments and Double Bottom Line initiatives to spur economic progress in existing communities, build needed housing and promote environmentally responsible and sustainable development practices,” Angelides said in a statement to Affordable Housing Finance. As treasurer, Angelides launched those initiatives to direct more than $26 billion in capital through state programs and the state pension and investment funds to spur economic growth and create affordable housing and jobs.
Westly, who has been state controller since 2002, is less known in the industry, but he has also had a hand in affordable housing in the state. He sits on both CTCAC and CDLAC. Before becoming controller, Westly was senior vice president of marketing and business development at eBay and taught at Stanford University.
Housing advocates in the state said they have heard little about affordable housing from these candidates with slightly more than two months left before the election.
Housing advocates noted that the pressing issue had been getting housing included in a statewide infrastructure bond. Plans for getting a bond on the June election collapsed in March, but negotiations were continuing for a November attempt.
“Our issue is sustaining affordable housing funding in California,” said Jeffrey Loustau, executive director of the California Housing Consortium. He and others pointed out that the $2.1 billion raised by Proposition 46 is close to running out.
Angelides was leading in the early polls, but Westly has amassed a larger war chest to reach voters. Westly’s campaign had about $23 million compared to Angelides’ $14.5 million, according to campaign financial reports filed in March. A good chunk of Westly’s financing came from his own pocket.
Angelides had received contributions from numerous affordable housing developers, including $2,000 from Henry Cisneros, chairman of American CityVista, a national development firm based in San Antonio. Cisneros is a former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Angelides has also received the endorsements of several labor organizations, including the California Labor Federation and the Service Employees International Union.
One observer noted that the labor support could create an interesting situation for Angelides when it comes to prevailing wage. The unions back paying prevailing wage for construction workers, but many affordable housing developers have opposed it because the additional cost makes their projects even tougher to pencil out.
Angelides did not directly address the issue of prevailing wage, but in his statement to Affordable Housing Finance he said he would work to see that “unnecessary costs are not placed on housing construction.”
Westly has been backed by the Sierra Club California and other environmental organizations.
The Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, doesn’t endorse candidates. Deputy Executive Director Sam Mistrano, however, has a wish list for whoever is elected governor. That list includes a statewide trust fund for affordable housing as well as having affordable housing be part of any future bond proposal.
Affordable housing attitudes shift in Poway
Poway, Calif. — The perception of affordable housing is changing in this Southern California community.
This new understanding about affordable housing is attributed to a public information campaign started by the city of Poway and a trio of nonprofit affordable housing developers. The effort, dubbed Housing Solutions, was recognized this year with a 2006 Award of Excellence from the California Redevelopment Association.
The campaign is seen as a model for other cities to raise awareness.
Housing Solutions was started in 2004 when the developers and city officials saw that there was limited community understanding about affordable housing, according to Ingrid Alverde, housing program manager for redevelopment services in the city of Poway, a community of about 50,000 in San Diego County. It’s a situation that many suburban jurisdictions face.
Business leaders who understood the importance of affordable housing in attracting and maintaining employees were called upon to support the campaign. Community members who said their children could not afford to live in the city where they were raised also joined the effort.
“We recognized there were supporters who don’t come to council meetings to talk about the projects,” Alverde said.
Housing Solutions changed the way people talked about affordable housing, according to Alverde. The old message often involved making the case that affordable housing was mandated and the right thing to do.
Instead, with the new campaign, supporters began discussing the merits of affordable housing, including the economic benefits to local businesses and its value in strengthening the social and family structure in the community.
A presentation was created and delivered to different civic organizations in Poway. “It began to show the public at large the benefits of affordable housing and how it is tied to the overall community,” said Ken Sauder, executive director of Wakeland Housing and Development Corp, who described housing as a business, school and even a safety issue.
The campaign helped put a face to affordable housing, he said. Wakeland, Community HousingWorks and San Diego Interfaith Housing Foundation were the nonprofit developers involved in forming the alliance.
The results of the campaign are hard to quantify, but when plans for a 56-unit affordable housing development went before the City Council last year, a new level of understanding could be seen, according to Alverde.
“The project was approved and everyone felt good about it,” she said.
For information, visit www.housingsolutionspoway.org.
– Donna Kimura