Category Archive: Sustainable Development

  1. Collaborating with You to Build Sustainable Communities

    Comments Off on Collaborating with You to Build Sustainable Communities

    Thank you to all our clients and partners who have contributed to LeSar Development Consultants’ success this year. We have been fortunate to work with cities, counties, and regions throughout the state as they work to update their strategies to create more sustainable communities. Often, these engagements have demanded a systems-level approach that takes into account dynamics such as climate change, income inequality, and recent and forthcoming evolutions in transportation. We’ve also had the opportunity to work with business, foundations, and nonprofit organizations whose perspectives on these issues continue to help shape our thinking about what it means to create sustainable communities.

    And in November, I wrapped up my role as Chair of the Host Committee for the California Economic Summit in my hometown of San Diego. I also moderated a discussion on how Summit participants could support the implementation of the housing package by building public understanding and engaging political leaders in advocating for housing affordability. The discussion highlighted the need for California to lead the nation in the creation of workforce housing so that people at all socioeconomic levels can thrive in our communities. I hope you will join me in building momentum for these important issues in the coming year, and I look forward to hearing from you about how we can work together.

    With more than 30 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 address our housing crisis, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO, at Jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

     

  2. Countdown to the 2017 California Economic Summit

    Comments Off on Countdown to the 2017 California Economic Summit

    CES logoAs leaders, we are called to promote public actions and private choices, which create the social, economic, and environmental conditions that contribute to a vibrant, just, and sustainable future – a prosperity shared among us and with future generations. To achieve this vision, we must work together to address challenges such as poverty and income inequality, technological disruptions, and climate change by engaging in civil discourse, identifying solutions, and building the public will to engage in collective action. What can you do lead the way toward greater prosperity for all Californians?

    Attend the 2017 California Economic Summit. Join state and local leaders as we come together to advance solutions for housing, workforce, and water sustainability, and seek to articulate a compelling vision and clear strategy for improving incomes, economic security, and upward mobility.

    Since 2012, California Forward and partners in the California Economic Summit have articulated and advanced an evolving public agenda for shared prosperity. We now seek to accelerate that progress with an even stronger commitment to more explicit goals, and an affirmation of the Summit as a venue for respectful and candid engagement among those of different minds.

    If you’re already registered, take five minutes to encourage your colleagues, partners, and other local leaders to attend. And if you’re not yet registered, do it now using the code LESAR17.

    You can also learn more about the program and logistics on the California Economic Summit website.

    Lead the Way!  If your organization has an inspiring story to share with Summit attendees, submit a request to host a Lightning Talk.

    Join the Conversation.  Contribute your ideas in a guest blog to the Elevate CA web series.

  3. $100 Million Added to Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities NOFA

    Comments Off on $100 Million Added to Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities NOFA

    On September 27th, the Strategic Growth Council announced a $100 million increase to the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), which will now be included in the Third Round of the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) program. The additional funds come from the August Cap-and-Trade auction proceeds, and increase the amount of available funding to approximately $255 million. The decision to release the funds came in response to a request from the California Housing Partnership, which was echoed by both NPH and SCANPH.

    The funds will be released on October 2, 2017, and applications will be due January 16, 2018. AHSC program staff will be hosting six application workshops throughout the state on the following dates:

    – Monday, October 2, 2017 – Sacramento
    – Wednesday, October 4, 2017 – Fresno
    – Thursday, October 5, 2017 – San Francisco
    – Tuesday, October 10, 2017 – Los Angeles
    – Wednesday, October 11, 2017 – Riverside
    – Thursday, October 12, 2017 – San Diego

    The Draft Funding Guidelines released on August 4th, 2017, are currently being updated to reflect feedback from stakeholders and legislative updates related to AB 1550, which increases the percentage of funding for projects that benefit disadvantaged communities with an additional focus on low-income communities and households. Final Guidelines will be adopted after the release of the NOFA. Additional requirements will be built into the program guidelines for future funding cycles.

    For more information, please refer to the workshop information or the memo published by AHSC. LDC affiliate Estolano LeSar Perez, in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, will be providing technical assistance to support qualifying AHSC applicants.

    Liz Tracey-4x5For information about affordable housing and community development financing resources, contact Liz Tracey, Senior Principal, LDC at: liz@lesardevelopment.com.

    Liz Tracey is an expert on affordable housing and community development finance using tools such as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and New Markets Tax Credits.

  4. Lawmakers Rally Votes to Pass Housing Package

    Comments Off on Lawmakers Rally Votes to Pass Housing Package

    California State Capitol SacramentoIn the waning hours of the 2017 legislative session, state lawmakers rallied the votes necessary to reach agreement on a package of housing bills designed to help alleviate the state’s historic housing crisis. The Legislature’s vote to approve the package will provide up to $4.1 billion in bond funding, plus another $250 million annually from a real estate transaction fee, altogether the largest amount of state financing for affordable housing in California history. The package is projected to generate an estimated 70,000 housing units by 2022.

    The vote followed amendments to Senate Bills 2 and 3, which were the subject of intense negotiation as leaders statewide sought to stimulate development and respond to growing public pressure to improve housing affordability. Both SB2 and SB3 required a two-thirds approval by the Assembly to pass.

    Building Homes and Jobs Act

    The Building Homes and Jobs Act (SB 2), authored by Sen. Atkins (D-San Diego), will create a permanent revenue source to fund affordable housing by charging $75 to $225 in document fees on real estate transactions, such as mortgage refinancing. Home and commercial property sales are exempt from the fee. SB 2 is expected to generate approximately $5 billion over the next five years when matched with federal, local, and private funds.

    SB 2 was amended August 29th to provide greater local control over the funds. In 2018, half the funds will be made available to local governments to support community planning and half to the Department of Housing and Community Development to fund programs for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Beginning in 2019, local governments will receive 70% of the funds, with the remaining 30% appropriated to the California Housing Finance Agency to create mixed-income multifamily residential housing for lower to moderate income households.

    “There is no single silver bullet that will solve the crisis; however, SB 2 is a step in the right direction,” said Atkins following the bill’s passage. “It will generate new, ongoing funding to create permanent supportive housing for people who are experiencing chronic homelessness, providing them with services they need to address their physical and mental health issues and relieving pressure on our courts, jails, and emergency rooms.”

    Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018

    SB 3, the Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018 (Beall, D-San Jose), authorizes a November 2018 ballot measure seeking voter approval for $4 billion in bond funding for rental housing and existing housing programs. Introduced as a $3 billion bond proposal for the construction of new low-income housing, an August 28th amendment increased the bond by $1 billion to provide homeownership subsidies to veterans by extending the Cal-Vet Farm and Home Loan Program.

    Streamlining Development

    The Legislature also passed several bills related to eliminating local barriers to housing production. SB 35 (Wiener, D-San Francisco) will streamline permitting by eliminating multiple planning reviews “by right” for housing projects that meet certain zoning and affordability standards. Under the bill, projects featuring more than 10 units that qualify for expedited approval would pay union-level or prevailing wages to construction workers, and developers of some larger projects would “have to agree to union-standard work rules or apprenticeship programs.”

    Sen. Friedman (D-Glendale) spoke in favor of the bill, saying that it struck the right balance between providing the housing we need and protecting the environment. “The bill targets urban infill areas where residents are less likely to depend on cars, and more likely to rely on public transportation,” she added.

    SB 540 (Roth, D-Riverside) will allow local governments to form priority Workforce Housing Opportunity Zones and charge fees for developers seeking approvals within the zone. Local governments that establish the zones will be required to approve proposed developments that meet the plan’s criteria within 60 days. In addition to spurring construction, SB 540 is expected to increase jobs and economic opportunity. The bill was supported by both realtors and the building trades. 

    The Legislature also passed SB 166, which will eliminate a loophole in the current housing element law and prohibit communities from permitting units at a capacity lower than what is needed to meet their share of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment for lower and moderate-income households.

    In addition, SB 167 strengthens the Housing Accountability Act, also known as the “Anti-NIMBY Act,” by requiring local agencies to base any decisions to prohibit the development of very low- to moderate-income projects or emergency shelters “on a preponderance of the evidence” and allows the courts to impose fees for non-compliance.

    “If cities are not doing what they should be doing, they could be found in violation of the Act,” said David Chiu (D-San Francisco).

    AB 1505 (Bloom, D-Santa Monica), which would restore the ability of local governments to adopt ordinances requiring that inclusionary housing policies be applied as a condition of permitting for rental housing, will be heard in the Senate today.

    The Governor, who has until October 15th to sign the bills, tweeted his support for the package.

    LDC will continue to follow the news from today’s legislative session, and will provide you with updates as Gov. Brown takes action on these bills.

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

    Comments Off on Legislators’ Push for Affordable Housing Package Dominates News Cycle

    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.

  6. Unlocking Land for High-Impact Development

    Comments Off on Unlocking Land for High-Impact Development

    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.

  7. Harvard Report Calls for Expanded Range of Housing Options

    Comments Off on Harvard Report Calls for Expanded Range of Housing Options

    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.

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

    Comments Off on New AHSC Grant Guidelines Approved, ELP Advisors Again Provides Technical Assistance

    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.

  9. Legislature Passes Cap and Trade, Delays Vote on Affordable Housing Measures

    Comments Off on Legislature Passes Cap and Trade, Delays Vote on Affordable Housing Measures

    After months of intense negotiations, Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators reached an agreement to extend cap and trade until 2030. On Monday, the Legislature voted to approve two bills that will assure the continuation of the market-based climate program. Legislative leaders also announced that they are postponing a vote on several affordable housing bills until August.

    Cap and Trade

    Gov and State Lawmakers Unveil New Plan to Extend Cap and TradeYesterday’s vote on Assembly Bill 398 (Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella) will require the California Air Resources Board to establish a firm upper limit for the price of allowances or permits to emit one metric ton of greenhouse gases. The current cap-and-trade system set a floor for prices but did not have a fixed ceiling to prevent prices from rising.

    Assembly Bill 617 (Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens; Eduardo Garcia, and Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles) requires stricter air pollution monitoring around industrial facilities and tougher penalties for violating pollution regulations. This benefits communities located near these facilities.

    “Today’s vote on AB 398 to extend Cap and Trade marks an important milestone in the fight against climate change,” said Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), who previously led efforts to direct cap and trade funding toward transit-oriented affordable housing projects while serving as Speaker of the Assembly. “Without this extension, California would have been in serious danger of failing to meet our ambitious, world-leading climate goals.”

    Passage of these bills represents a second milestone in assuring the future of cap and trade. In June, California’s Supreme Court upheld an appeals court’s approval of the program. Opponents had challenged the program as essentially amounting to an unauthorized tax.

    Affordable Housing

    Senate Bill 2 Leaps Forward in the State AssemblyAmid Monday’s debate on cap and trade, the Governor, Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon issued a joint statement reaffirming their shared commitment to address California’s housing needs when the Legislature resumes in August.

    “Astronomical housing costs are straining family budgets and stress employees who can’t afford to live where they work. That’s unacceptable, and it’s why the affordable housing crisis has been one of our top priorities. The package of legislation we are all working on will help ensure Californians won’t have to pay an arm and a leg to have a roof over their head.”

    The package of bills under consideration includes the Building Homes and Jobs Act (SB 2), which was authored by Sen. Atkins and 12 co-signers and gained momentum on July 12th following an approval vote in the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee and a motion that allowed the bill to bypass the Appropriations Committee and move directly to the Assembly Floor.

    The Building Homes and Jobs Act establishes a permanent funding source that will increase California’s supply of affordable homes, create jobs, and spur economic growth. Ongoing revenues would be obtained through fees on real estate document filings, excluding residential and commercial property sales. Fees would not exceed $225 per transaction.

    Modeled on the Building Homes and Jobs Act bill (AB 1335 — Atkins), SB 2 would address the urgent need for affordable housing funding lost through the elimination of Redevelopment Agencies in January 2012. The bill would generate an estimated $200 million annually following implementation in 2018.

    According to the bill’s sponsors, the California Housing Consortium and Housing California, SB 2 will create approximately 29,000 jobs for every $500 million raised, primarily in the construction sector. The bill would also leverage an additional $2.78 billion in federal, local, and private sector investment.

    Other bills that will be under consideration by the Legislature include:

    Senate Bill 3, the Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018 (Beall, D-San Jose), which would authorize a ballot measure asking voters statewide to approve $3 billion in bond financing for rental housing and existing housing programs in the November 2018 election.

    Senate Bill 35 (Wiener, D-San Francisco), which would eliminate multiple local planning reviews for individual projects that meet certain zoning and affordability standards. Under provisions negotiated with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, projects of more than 10 units that qualify for expedited approval would pay union-level wages to construction workers, and developers of some larger projects would have to agree to union-standard work rules or apprenticeship programs.

    Assembly Bill 45, the California School Employee Housing Assistance Grant Program (Thurmond, D-Richmond), which would require the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) to administer a $25 million predevelopment grant and loan fund for the creation of affordable housing for school district employees.

    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. Register Now for the 2017 California Economic Summit

    Comments Off on Register Now for the 2017 California Economic Summit

    CES logoRegister for the 2017 California Economic Summit taking place in San Diego on November 2-3, and save $100 on registration through August 31 using LeSar Development Consultants’ special code: LESAR17.

    Join the state’s largest existing coalition of public- and private-sector leaders, coming together for the sixth annual Summit to advance three ambitious goals:

    • Create a unifying triple-bottom-line vision for increasing economic security and upward mobility
    • Expand the strength and diversity of the Summit network to increase its influence on state and local policy decisions
    • Mature the Summit as a formal civic partner with government to advance triple-bottom-line policies

    The Summit highlights progress on The 2017 Roadmap to Shared Prosperity, which offers detailed action plans to improve the workforce pipeline, increase the supply of housing near jobs and transit, and expand regional water management of the state’s vital water supplies.

    register_now

    Jennifer LeSar, CEO of LeSar Development Consultants and Chair of the Summit Host Committee, was among the local leaders who collaborated to bring the Summit to the San Diego region.

    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.