I don’t think there are many who would argue that Sacramento has not been hit hard by a statewide housing crisis. Indeed, the city had the third-highest overall rental increase in the nation in 2017 – and that has not gone unnoticed by its citizens. Unaffordable rents, compounded with stagnant and eroding wages and overwhelming student loan debt, among other factors, have left people of all ages (particularly young people) screwed…for lack of a better term.
They’re pissed and ready to do something about it, too.
At the state level, one such effort is a ballot measure that will be voted on in November. If passed, the initiative would overturn the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, passed in 1995. The law essentially makes it difficult for cities and counties to enact rent control policies in the state. While for some the jury is still out on whether or not rent control makes a meaningful impact for renters in the long-term, it is a clear sign that renters are ready for relief now.
There is also an effort at the local level in Sacramento called the Sacramento Renter Protection and Community Stabilization Charter Amendment. Pushed by a coalition of tenant rights organizations called Housing 4 Sacramento, as well as Organize Sacramento, this measure would, among other things, provide financial support for renters who are displaced, limit what landlords can evict tenants for, and cap rent hike percentages per year. Mayor Steinberg has openly opposed the rent control initiative, but has proposed his own plan which includes raising the sales tax a full cent, creating a rent stabilization fund for displaced renters, and encouraging more development.
So, this begs the question of who’s protecting the interests of renters in Sacramento.
There’s the Sacramento Housing Alliance, which according to their website, “advocates for safe, stable, accessible, and affordable homes in the Sacramento region”. The organization’s priorities include fighting for affordable housing for veterans and homeless individuals, as well as advocating for the local rent control effort.
There’s also the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, which “was created to ensure the ongoing development of affordable housing and to continuously fuel community redevelopment projects in the city and county of Sacramento”. The organization helps develop and fund affordable housing opportunities and maintains rental assistance programs, among other things.
And then there’s CADA, which develops and maintains affordable housing units for renters in Sacramento. According to their website, they are the largest affordable housing developer in the central city and focus on sustainable, transit-oriented, community-minded dwellings. In many ways, CADA is its own animal in that it “is tasked with meeting challenging government mandates in a business model closely paralleling a private real estate management and development company.” This model includes having at-will rather than civil service employees, maintaining competitive market rate housing to help fund investment into affordable housing, and cultivating public-private partnerships.
Anecdotally, I have heard from many of my peers just how difficult it is to make it onto the CADA waitlist, which apparently has been impacted for years. This is no surprise as the demand for such units has increased dramatically.
Over the years organizations like CADA have faced many challenges, including the dissolution of California’s redevelopment agency, which has led to decreased funding to build and manage projects. Despite the growing demand for affordable housing, they are often left to make difficult financial decisions in order to continue moving forward.
One such decision occurred recently at a July 19th CADA board meeting, where the board voted to sell one of their properties to the development firm Cresleigh Homes. The project on the corner of N & 14th streets will not only displace current tenants within the 30 units to be torn down, it would allow the developer to sell 32 1-bedroom units for $748 per sq. ft. ($608k/avg per unit), 53 2-bedroom units for $443 per sq. ft. ($964k/avg per unit), and two 3-bedroom units for $347 per sq. ft. ($1.875mil per unit).
On its face, such a decision appears to directly contradict the public need by demolishing currently available affordable rental housing in lieu of pricey market-rate homes for sale; however, accordinging to the staff analysis, this will “satisfy CADA’s the long-held strategic goal of providing more home-ownership opportunities in the Capitol Area”. We can only hope the revenues generated from such a deal will eventually provide more affordable rental units for not only those who will be displaced, but those in need who have yet been able to access.
More broadly, it is imperative that state and local governments work together to develop long-term solutions and re-invest in bolstering the housing supply. It is a complex issue that involves the intersection of everything from local zoning ordinances to environmental impact assessments, and of course, finding the money needed to make it happen. I defer to those much smarter than I on the right solutions – but it is clear that the timing is now for the well-being of Sacramento and California as a whole.
We’re in a housing crisis, after all.