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City Council to consider steps to fix affordable housing shortage

SAN DIEGO -- The City Council is scheduled Monday to address the critical affordable housing shortage in San Diego and consider steps to alleviate the problem.

According to the California Association of Realtors, barely over one quarter of San Diego area households can afford a median priced home. A lack of affordable housing has also contributed, in part, to a significant growth in the area's homeless population.

Soaring residential real estate prices have severely reduced the numbers of houses for sale in the region, as owners of entry-level homes find themselves unable to move up. That restricts the pool of more affordable homes available to prospective first-time purchasers.

City officials last month rolled out several proposals designed to spur the construction of low-income and middle-class housing through incentives, streamlined development standards and a faster review process, direct funding toward affordable housing and directing growth toward transit-friendly areas.

Among the dozen ideas recently offered by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, the San Diego Housing Commission and council members were:

-- updating regulations to allow builders to gain higher densities for their projects;

-- streamlining the review process for public and private development projects that are consistent with densities established by existing zoning, community plan or general plan policies for which an environmental impact report was certified;

-- reforming a develop impact fee system that discriminates against affordable units;

-- updating the city's 60-year-old parks master plan; and

-- establishing a $20 million financing fund to encourage development near transit hubs.

Another provision, which would ease regulations on construction of auxiliary units or "granny flats," was recently given a nod by a City Council committee.

Also to be considered by the council are recommendations to amend regulations on infill development -- developing under-used parcels within urban areas -- and reduce costly delays faced by builders by raising from $100 to $1,000 the cost of appealing certain building permits and environmental findings to the City Council. This agenda item would also clarify that appeals need to be heard within two months, and that community planning groups would be exempted from the fee increase.