Redwood City’s Redevelopment Agency , with 80 percent going to economic development activities and 20 percent to affordable housing. Under Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed budget, allocated money for this project would be gone in July.
Though the passing of Proposition 22 back in November prevents the state from taking money used for redevelopment, transportation or local government projects and services, Governor Brown could sidestep this by completing eliminating redevelopment agencies altogether.
Non-profits like Mid-Peninsula Housing Coalition rely heavily on redevelopment agency funds to provide affordable housing options throughout the Bay Area. Though it earns money from a development fee off their projects and have private management of their units, redevelopment agency monies provide 85 percent of funding.
“This would be a knock-out punch,” said Matt Franklin, Executive Director of Mid-Peninsula Housing Coalition. “Redevelopment agencies are the lifeblood of Mid-Peninsula and other organizations.”
Councilmember Jeff Gee said if organizations like Mid-Peninsula are eliminated, “there will be no replacement tools to promote new development. This is a short term gain for the budget, but there is no long-term solution.”
The Governor’s rationale is that several redevelopment agencies have historically abused the system and have not put their funds to good use. Instead, this money could be re-directed to cities’ general funds to support schools or other services.
“It pits schools and social services against low income housing,” Franklin said. “But studies have consistently shown that students can’t perform in school if they don’t have a safe, sanitary environment to go home to.”
Rather than completely eliminating the redevelopment agencies altogether, the Housing & Transportation Committee recommended reform.
The Housing & Transportation committee recommends a “use it or lose it” policy. Co-Chair Jim Bigelow called attention to Menlo Park, which receives $17 million every year but has six affordable housing development projects. In contrast, the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County identified 29 projects in Redwood City like the Villa Montgomery, Hallmark Apartments and City Center Plaza, whose units are nearly all affordable housing units, but integrated into the community.
Reform ideas included:
- Should cities not spend their money, the committee proposed funneling it to a regional, or even statewide, affordable housing trust.
- Limit the ability of agencies to spend money on administration, planning or lobbying.
- Redevelopment agencies would be subject to independent auditing.
- Dollars eligible for housing should be narrowed and the definition of “blight” should be limited. Only areas the really need the investment and housing would receive money.
Many opponents of redevelopment agency eliminations have organized and even sent bus loads of people to the Capitol in protest, according to Chris Mohr, the Housing Leadership Council's Executive Director.
“This is a critical issue in San Mateo County,” Mohr said. “And clearly several people care about redevelopment agencies’ future.”