(Please note that the word "draconian" does not occur once in the following post concerning the ongoing budget debacle. Readers susceptible to cliché-induced seizures (CIS) can read this article without ill effect.)
By his own characterization, the governor's latest proposal attempts to close the $19 billion shortfall in the coming year's budget almost entirely through cuts. For CP&DR readers, it's probably unnecessary to explain that many of these cuts affect – or have effectively eliminated – services for low-income people, not limited to affordable housing, health care and early childhood education. Hell, we can't even afford our prisons—an irony well deserved by the Lock-'em-Up State.
I'm going to skip the usual jeremiad about short-sightedness and greed, not because I don't think it's true, but that it's been said often before, by wiser heads. Except I will add that if there ever had been a post-war "social contract" in California, it's fast evaporating. We are no longer upholding the side of the bargain that calls for sheltering and lifting up those less fortunate. This brings a sour dénouement to the all-American narrative of opportunism and occasional public spiritedness that made California the capital of postwar American optimism.
Amid the loss of our once-enviable social contract, then, how are we going to provide continue to provide low income housing? This goal was hard to attain even when times were good and real estate was even more expensive. One proposal allows the state to steal (my word) a portion of local redevelopment money, generated by local tax increment, to toss some additional dollars at the state's money fire (CP&DR Vol. 25, No. 9, May 2010). As most readers know, siphoning off local redevelopment dollars has a direct impact on the creation of low-income housing, because 30 percent of redevelopment monies are set aside for affordable units.
Although not unprecedented, I think such raids on local money are actionable, and possibly illegal, if the "nexus" theory of taxation, created in case law, holds up in court (although my guess the state would prevail by claiming the right under emergency powers).
In any event, we need to invent new and creative ways to provide low income and moderate income housing (including workforce housing). Joint use, meaning the sharing of resources, such as land and money and access to funding sources, among public agencies—has never seemed as attractive as it does now. But how will smaller cities with very few redevelopment funds meet their low-income housing requirements? Am I insane for suggesting that organizations like Habitat for Humanity could be invited to build a half-dozen homes at a time in certain places? I'd be happy to start a thread here, if you think any of these ideas, or others, are workable. And if not, please set me straight.
Then again, things could be worse … much worse. A brief tour of some urban ills that California policy makers can bless the stars are not theirs:
- In 40 years, seven out of 10 people will live in mega-cities (from the Christian Science Monitor)
- Ten Places in the world where you don't want to live (from Hottnez)
- And for a worst-case in civic liability, how 'bout a suddenly liquefied landscape that swallows an entire house, leaving little trace behind (must be seen to be believed) ?