Category Archive: Data and Metrics

  1. Legislators’ Push for Affordable Housing Package Dominates News Cycle

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    Efforts to address California’s housing shortage took center stage in Sacramento last week as Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders struck a deal on three key measures—Senate Bills 2, 3, and 35. The measures have been the subject of intense debate as leaders statewide seek to stimulate development and improve housing affordability.

    Senate Bill 3, authored by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) was amended August 28th to increase the bond to $4 billion and renamed. The amended bill would authorize $3 billion in bonds for the construction of new low-income housing, and add $1 billion to extend the Cal-Vet Farm and Home Loan Program, which provides homeownership subsidies to veterans. The Building Homes and Jobs Act (SB2), authored by Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), was also amended to provide for more local government control of the funds generated from real estate document fees. The third measure, Senate Bill 35 authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would streamline local planning reviews for new construction. Both SB2 and SB3 require a two-thirds approval by the Legislature.

    The news and opinion pieces highlighted below offer a robust picture of the debate taking place statewide:

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO, at jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

  2. Unlocking Land for High-Impact Development

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    Modern apartment buildingThe most recent forecast shows that California needs 1.8 million new homes by 2025 to keep pace with population growth, projected to reach 39 million to 50 million by 2050, yet annually produces fewer than half the homes necessary to meet those needs. As a result, cities and counties throughout the state now face an unprecedented affordable housing crisis that threatens economic growth.

    While new sources of housing financing are part of the solution, many jurisdictions are also taking steps to maximize the development potential of existing land. According to the widely circulated “A Blueprint for Addressing the Global Affordable Housing Challenge” and its California companion report “Closing California’s Housing Gap,” both published by the McKinsey Global Institute, efforts to “unlock land” are the most important measures jurisdictions can take to reduce the costs associated with housing production. This is especially true in California where the growing population and limited availability of buildable parcels makes it imperative to prioritize sites based on their capacity for high-impact development.

    In recent years, many jurisdictions have turned to transit-oriented development to unlock land with existing infrastructure near transit hubs and corridors. Since 1995, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has routinely sought opportunities to collaborate with developers to increase transit use by building pedestrian-friendly communities on Metro-owned properties. To date, the agency has completed more than 2,017 housing units, as well as nearly 1.5 million square feet of combined retail and office space, across 18 projects. In 2015, the agency updated its joint development policies to require that 35% of the total housing units be affordable to households earning no more than 60% of the area median income.

    San Diego has also taken steps to develop or repurpose government-owned land. In June 2017, San Diego County Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Ron Roberts announced an affordable housing initiative that included identifying 11 county-owned properties for evaluation to determine whether they can be redeveloped. County officials are currently evaluating these sites to determine the feasibility of different redevelopment options.

    Other jurisdictions are working with private landowners to spur development on underutilized or idle land. Last year, Alameda County passed a general obligation bond to provide $580 million in funding for affordable housing initiatives. One initiative capitalizes on the interest faith-based and community organizations expressed in developing their available land and buildings for affordable housing. To launch the Housing Development Capacity Building Program, the County Board of Supervisors has allocated $750,000 to provide qualifying organizations with the capacity development and training necessary to convert their assets into affordable housing. The County also seeks to leverage its contribution with other resources to expand its services.

    In addition, more communities—including Santa Monica—are adopting inclusionary zoning policies. In July, the Santa Monica City Council voted to require most new developments to set aside up to 30 percent of units for low-income households.

    As local governments seek to resolve the affordable housing crisis, they will need more innovative strategies to spur development by unlocking land. By analyzing how available land is currently used, local governments can determine which locations offer the greatest potential for lower-cost, high-impact housing development.

    To learn more about LDC’s policy services, contact Artemis Spyridonidis, Senior Associate, at artemis@lesardevelopment.com.

    LeSar-Artemis-4x5Artemis Spyridonidis covers housing policy issues, including structural solutions to the housing affordability crisis, consolidated plans, housing elements, accessory dwelling unit policy implementation, and regional issues across the state of California.

  3. Cross-border Housing Development

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    Group Picture in TijuanaTijuana is experiencing a resurgence. Long recognized as a bustling border town, Tijuana has recently been grabbing headlines up and down the California coast as an arts hub, a thriving gastro-tourism destination, and a place where San Diegans can find affordable housing. LeSar Development Consultants has been following these trends closely, and last week traveled to Tijuana to meet with local developers and architects to discuss how the city of Tijuana is changing and their vision for its future.

    Estación Federal

    The LDC team first met with Miguel Marshall, CEO of Centro Ventures, just across the border from the San Ysidro port of entry in a neighborhood known as Colonia Empleados Federales. Centro Ventures led the redevelopment of a former gas station called Estación Federal into a live/work space that has become home to regional artists and entrepreneurs. Marshall and a local community leader, Mario Aragón, described how the land was granted to federal employees in the 1940s, when the addition of canals to tame the flooding of the Tijuana River and the presence of a pedestrian bridge border crossing created a boom in both the local economy and the housing industry.

    After the pedestrian crossing was closed down and moved, the neighborhood experienced a downturn that is still visible today in the empty storefronts and abandoned developments. Just over a year ago, a new pedestrian bridge border crossing, known as “El Chaparral” in Mexico and “Virginia Avenue Bridge” in the US, was installed. The new crossing and the redevelopment of Estacion Federal have brought revitalization to the area.

    20170721_102157When Marshall and his investment partners decided to redevelop the property, they immediately looked to make the space an art and culture hub. The concept of redevelopment of mixed use properties is somewhat new in Mexico, so Marshall and his team raised the initial funds for the purchase based on their business plan and then received several rounds of financing for construction before accumulating sufficient credit to obtain a mortgage through a small, regional bank.

    Estación Federal currently has a variety of apartments ranging in price from $500 to $1,000 – many of which are rented by Americans working in the US. It also has six work spaces, and several commercial spaces.

    Escuela Libre de Arqitectura

    Three years ago, Tijuana also became home to a new architecture school, Escuela Libre de Arquitectura, which is rooted in the urbanist philosophy of founder and local architect and planner Jorge Gracia.

    During a tour of the school, Gracia and his colleague, Orhan Ayyüce, talked about the importance of the people and narratives behind architectural development. Their “constellations” program teaches students about how place-making creates community hubs within neighborhoods. Gracia talked about how the narratives of kidnapping and the war on drugs had destroyed the city. As a working architect and planner, he also saw an opportunity to revitalize the city by creating a new generation of architects who understood how history and culture shape the environment.

    ELA Recycling ProjectAt Escuela Libre de Arquitectura, students receive a hard hat on their first day to symbolize the importance of practical architecture and its relationships to urban planning, construction, and daily life. Students not only learn about design theory and trends, they also learn about mixed use development, how to work with clients, and sales. They also take part in three internships throughout their course of study, including both local and international internships that help them to understand the connection between architecture and place.

    Following a tour of the school and Gracia’s studio, one of the students, Sarah, showed the LDC team her latest group project — a burned out building the group is reclaiming as a space for an upcoming architecture conference. The space will showcase reuse and recycling. The students were working with a few volunteers that day to sort the debris from the fire into neat piles that would be used as the raw materials for the redesigned space. As Gracia said, the students are learning how to build a better city.

    To learn more about LDC’s policy services, contact Artemis Spyridonidis, Senior Associate, at artemis@lesardevelopment.com.

    LeSar-Artemis-4x5Artemis Spyridonidis is covering housing policy issues, including structural solutions to the housing affordability crisis, consolidated plans, housing elements, accessory dwelling unit policy implementation, and regional issues across the state of California.

  4. San Diego Considering Pilot Program to Reduce ADU Fees

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    ArtemisSenior Associate Artemis Spyridonidis addressed the San Diego City Council on July 24th, before it approved amendments to the Land Development Code and the Local Coastal Program to modify the City’s accessory dwelling unit (ADU) regulations.

    Her comments focused on the Smart Growth and Land Use Committee’s recommendation that the City Council approve a two-year pilot program during which ADU fees would be reduced to a flat fee of $2,000 – down from the current fees of approximately $28,300. Although it wasn’t part of the resolution that day, the City Council may still have an opportunity to approve this program, and it’s our hope that the pilot program will be created, as it could create a great boost in ADU production.

    LDC studied San Diego’s ADU fees and compared them to the fees of several other major cities. We found that there is a direct correlation between fees and the number of units built; the lower the fees, the more units built.

    For example, Portland, Oregon, charges approximately $1,300 in fees and approximately 350 ADUs have been built there each year since 2015. Santa Cruz charges around $12,800 in fees and approximately 50 units have been built each year since 2015. Finally, in San Diego, fees are approximately $28,300, and the city estimates that only 10 ADUs are built here each year. A two-year pilot program establishing a flat fee of $2,000 is a much needed policy change to encourage ADU development.

    As naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH), ADUs can help fight the displacement that typically occurs when neighborhoods gentrify and rents and housing prices climb, as they have in recent years in San Diego. This type of urban infill is also environmentally friendly, reducing commute times and urban sprawl. By allowing people to stay in their own communities, among their own neighbors, families, and friends, ADU development will help maintain networks that create wellbeing for all San Diegans.

    To learn more about LDC’s policy services, contact Artemis Spyridonidis, Senior Associate, at artemis@lesardevelopment.com.

    LeSar-Artemis-4x5Artemis Spyridonidis is covering housing policy issues, including structural solutions to the housing affordability crisis, consolidated plans, housing elements, accessory dwelling unit policy implementation, and regional issues across the state of California.

  5. LDC Working with Chair of San Diego City Council’s Select Committee on Homelessness

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    Kris 2In July, LDC Senior Associate Kris Kuntz began supporting the chair of the San Diego City Council’s Select Committee on Homelessness, Chris Ward, as a subject matter expert. He is working closely with Councilmember Ward to identify and implement solutions to the city’s significant homeless population. Meeting on July 24th, the committee took the following actions:

    a. Approved a memo with concepts to immediately address unsheltered homelessness.
    b. Moving to come back at the next meeting with details on the concepts, including costs.
    c. Approved their yearly work plan that includes exploring the option of declaring a homeless state of emergency and considering a 2018 ballot measure directed at homelessness.

    krisFor more information about new strategies, program reforms and systems change to address homelessness, contact Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate, at kris@lesardevelopment.com.

  6. Harvard Report Calls for Expanded Range of Housing Options

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    Harvard_2017_Housing_ReportNational home prices reached pre-recession peaks last year despite home prices exceeding previous highs in only 41 of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, according to a recent report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. High-income neighborhoods saw significantly greater gains than low-income neighborhoods, resulting in regional growth patterns that show price appreciation along the East and West Coasts and declines in the Midwest and South.

    The impacts of historically low construction on housing supply have disproportionately affected the entry-level housing market and tightened the rental market where prices have far outpaced inflation. While household growth rates have picked up largely due to gains among the millennial generation and immigrants, rates are expected to slow again as the baby-boom generation declines.

    To meet the demand for affordable housing, the report calls for national policies to address the diversity of housing markets nationwide, and for state and local governments to take the lead on developing policies and securing resources to meet the unique needs of their communities. Read more…

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at Jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

  7. New AHSC Grant Guidelines Approved, ELP Advisors Again Provides Technical Assistance

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    AHSC Sustainable CommunitiesCalifornia is gearing up for Round 3 of the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) grant program, and ELP Advisors will once again play a key role in providing technical assistance to select applicants.

    On July 17th, the Strategic Growth Council (SGC) approved new guidelines for the next round of AHSC grantmaking. Earlier this month, the council announced that LDC’s affiliate, Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors, in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, has once again been chosen to provide technical assistance to qualifying AHSC applicants. We are excited to continue our successful partnership with SGC and to team with Enterprise in providing comprehensive assistance to applicants across California.

    The new AHSC guidelines make some important changes since the last round, many in response to feedback from applicants. We are hopeful that these changes will make the application process less cumbersome, more effective and allow a wider range of communities to be competitive for funding. Here’s a rundown of the major changes:

    Bye bye, concept app: Repeat AHSC applicants will be happy to learn that concept applications are no longer required. They have been replaced with a checklist and an optional consultation with SGC staff. This change should greatly streamline the application process and give applicants a good idea of their competitiveness prior to investing time and money into a detailed application. A host of other, smaller changes are also aimed at streamlining and simplifying the process.

    New housing and anti-displacement requirements: The guidelines strengthen and, in some cases, add new requirements aimed at ensuring AHSC funds flow to communities that are complying with state housing law and protecting vulnerable communities from displacement.

    Changes to include more rural projects: Thanks to changes to the net density requirements, projects across a wider spectrum of rural communities will now be eligible for AHSC.

    Indian Tribes now eligible: Federally-recognized Indian Tribes are now eligible to apply for AHSC grants.

    New threshold criteria: Several scoring elements that were optional last year have become mandatory, known in AHSC lingo as “threshold” requirements. These include certain housing affordability and urban greening elements.

    You can review the new guidelines here.

    With the guidelines adopted and the technical assistance team in place, Round 3 of AHSC grantmaking will get underway this fall. The notice of funding availability (NOFA) will be released in October, applications will be due in January, and awards will be announced in May.

    Even before the NOFA is released, the council will begin the process of selecting applicants to receive free technical assistance from ELP Advisors and Enterprise. No details yet, but we expect there to be an announcement in August. We’ll keep you posted.

    For more information about AHSC grants and technical assistance opportunities, please contact Autumn Bernstein, Principal, at autumn@elpadvisors.com.

    LeSar-Autumn-5x7Autumn Bernstein, Principal, Estolano LeSar Perez (ELP) Advisors, is an expert in urban planning, transportation, housing, and environmental policy. She has 15 years of experience as a policy advocate, strategic advisor, non-profit executive and facilitator in communities across California. Autumn is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and lives in El Cerrito.

  8. Promoting Housing Affordability: Collaboration Key to Improving Policy, Market Conditions

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    Two recent events—the Terner Center for Housing Innovation Conference and the release of the UCLA Anderson Forecast—examined the role of market conditions and public policy in the current housing crisis, and what can be done to improve housing affordability in high-cost regions.

    LA Aff HousingAt the Terner Center for Housing Innovation Conference, Enrico Moretti, Professor of Economics at the University of California – Berkeley, pointed to the weak housing supply as a “self-inflicted problem” related to zoning and land use restrictions, CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), construction delays, and the proliferation of lawsuits. He also cited new research showing that underdevelopment limits access to jobs, which results in opportunity costs of $7,000 per year for the average Bay Area worker. It also contributes to rising inequality and depresses the State’s economy.

    The situation is similar in Los Angeles, where the growing number of rent-burdened households makes it difficult for people to escape poverty and increases the need for renter assistance, according to Stuart Gabriel, Professor of Finance and Arden Realty Chair at the University of California – Los Angeles Anderson School of Management.

    What can be done to address these issues? Solutions raised by the speakers and panelists include:

    • Updating zoning codes to allow for ADUs and multi-family development,
    • Implementing consequences for localities that fall short of RHNA goals, and
    • Revising parking requirements that restrict development, especially as transportation innovations transform commuting and travel.

    In addition, speakers at both events cited the need for greater regional and local collaboration. In a conversation with the Terner Center’s Carol Galante, Shaun Donovan, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, acknowledged Congress’s limited appetite for investing in infrastructure and the economy and encouraged regional and local leaders to come together to build the public will for local solutions. He also cited examples of successful interagency collaboration from the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which brought together the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help communities improve access to affordable housing, increase transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment.

    Along similar lines, one of the panels at the UCLA Anderson Forecast discussed the need to help planning agencies and communities rethink the meaning and importance of “affordable” housing as part of the larger housing continuum. By building housing across every income level, communities will not only reduce inequality, they will also strengthen the economy.

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at Jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

  9. Committee to House the Bay Area Prepares for September Launch

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    CASA logoCASA—the Committee to House the Bay Area—has brought together a new multi-sector group of 42 leaders from throughout the Bay Area to develop a strategy to respond to the region’s housing crisis and improve access to housing for all income levels. Although CASA will officially launch in September, the Technical Committee began its work in June with the engagement of cross-disciplinary experts.

    CASAOver the next 16 months, CASA will work to build consensus around solutions to increase housing production at all levels of affordability, preserve existing affordable housing stock, and protect vulnerable populations from experiencing housing instability and threats of displacement. The resulting strategy is expected to include innovative financing strategies, state and local legislation, and recommendations to address the current regulatory environment. The strategy will accompany Plan Bay Area 2040, which serves as the region’s land use and transportation roadmap.

    CASA will be co-chaired by SV@Home Executive Director Leslye Corsiglia, San Francisco Foundation CEO Fred Blackwell, and Chairman and CEO of TMG Partners Michael Covarrubias. Key advisors to CASA include Jennifer LeSar of LeSar Development Consultants, Cecilia Estolano of Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors, Carol Galante of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation, and Karen Chapple of the Urban Displacement Project.

    Members of CASA’s Steering and Technical Committees include diverse leaders from the private, philanthropic, governmental, and nonprofit sectors throughout the Bay Area, including the Mayors of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, and representatives from  other cities and counties, Google and the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation, Bank of America, labor groups, and market rate and affordable housing developers.

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at Jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

  10. My Four Takeaways from Denver Summit on Supportive Housing

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    Denver HousingIn May, several LDC colleagues and I attended the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) Summit in Denver. The conference brought together hundreds of thought leaders in the field of supportive housing to share trends, hands-on experiences, and ideas. We also enjoyed Denver’s craft beer scene, and the conference swag and endless supply of fresh coffee provided by our hosts. Here are my takeaways from the conference sessions:

    Partnerships: CSH CEO Deb de Santis led a lively lunch session with pictures from Jaws to emphasize her message for the need to build a bigger boat. She was alluding to the idea of bringing more partners that have a stake in ending homelessness—healthcare, criminal justice, and child welfare—to the table to work toward solutions. Many of the conference sessions highlighted the role of each of these sectors, and one session was completely devoted to understanding the different language used to talk about healthcare and housing.

    Another lunch session highlighted the collaboration among health and housing partners in Portland, Oregon, to develop new units of affordable and supportive housing. The session provided attendees with a concrete example of the innovative partnerships and financing approaches that can be developed when people are willing to come together and think big.

    Data Integration: Cross-sector data integration innovations are happening across the country. For example, many communities have undertaken projects to connect their Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data with criminal justice and healthcare data to identify overlapping populations and target resources more efficiently. The key with these efforts will be sustainability and keeping data updated and fresh.  Many communities have done one-off pilots and integrated data from multiple systems to create frequent user lists or to inform policy decisions, which is great, but these become static.  Innovative technology will be needed for ongoing impact and decision making.

    System Redesign: I also attended a half day pre-conference institute that showcased Houston’s homeless system redesign. Houston is well-known for effectively changing their homeless system and the leadership involved to coalesce a community around a common goal. What intrigued me most, however, were the ways they utilize their emergency shelter and transitional housing programs—two things that many communities across the country are in the midst of addressing.

    Political Leadership: On the last day of the conference, the Mayor of Denver addressed the audience. I was impressed with both his charisma and his clear commitment to finding innovative solutions to assist underserved populations, especially those experiencing homelessness, in his city. Recently, the City of Denver released a short-term strategy that specifically addresses housing, health, and employment. Denver is also operating a Pay for Success initiative targeted at people who are chronically homeless.

    While I enjoyed the conference sessions and discussions with colleagues from across the country, the swag I picked up was the clear highlight at home. My kids loved the new CSH florescent orange silly putty, and I even gave in and bought my kids some Denver Bronco souvenirs. Although I’m a diehard Chargers fan, my son said that he’s thinking of rooting for the Broncos, which might not be a bad idea now that the Chargers have moved to LA.

    For more information about homelessness programs, data, or policy, contact Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate, at Kris@lesardevelopment.com.