Archive » June 1, 2006
By Timothy Lennon Buckley
The Anti-Affordable Housing Revolution
Caution seems warranted when words are taken directly from the Communist Manifesto and used in government programs, so whether you are against the affordable housing program or more importantly, for it, there are a couple of things you should know about how the program is run:
Housing mandates are no longer just for low-income recipients. The city of Santa Barbara, for example, has bumped the affordable housing qualification up to include single individuals earning as much as $92,200 or $131,600 (for a family of four). Which means, dear reader, that virtually all City and County employees qualify for taxpayer-subsidized “workforce” housing.
According to the latest U.S. Census, median family income in Montecito was $130,000 per household, which means a great many Montecito residents can (and probably should) apply for taxpayer-subsidized housing. With a little bit of luck and perhaps a friend at County Planning or Housing Development, you could join the affordable-housing contingent living large on their neighbors’ hard-earned nickels and dimes.
What is “affordable” housing? According to Santabarbaraca.gov, it means “housing that does not cost more than 30% of a household’s gross income.” Let’s work on that. If one purchases a 2-bedroom, 2-bath condo with a 5% down payment for, say, $600,000, mortgage payments on the remaining principal of $570,000 at 6.5% would be $3,602.40 a month, fully amortized over 30 years. That’s a whopping $43,228.80 a year in mortgage payments. Add in $6,600 in property tax, and another $1,500 in utilities, and you’re in for $51,328.80 (gross) a year. Let’s face it, unless you are making $200,000 a year you should not be in the housing market. You should be a renter. A cursory glance at local classifieds finds two-bedroom condos for rent throughout the area for under $2,000 a month; that’s only $24,000 a year. And, the good thing about finding an apartment in the open market is that no county employees need be involved; there is no cumbersome bureaucracy to go through. Plus, you’ve saved yourself (and your not-so-friendly taxpaying neighbor) nearly $2,000 a month in payments!
The current “affordable housing” system seems rife with corruption and prone to abuse. Read Kim Seefeld’s “Private Property Report” on page 17 and you’ll see what we mean. Our guess is that those with access to politicians, planners, and/or housing officials, have an inside track on these sweetheart deals. The incentives to hide income and cheat the system are too great to resist for most ordinary folks, reason enough to abolish, at the least, the purchase aspect of the system. According to Ms Seefeld, in a recent audit of the County’s affordable housing program, auditor Bob Geis noted that preliminary results indicated 25 percent of owners are in violation of occupancy and rental restrictions. This is not surprising.
Another potential scam is the so-called Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program (HRLP). These are “loans” available for homeowners to “maintain or upgrade” their particular “affordable” residence. It is meant for “plumbing, electrical, heating… and other related miscellaneous items.” One can borrow as much as $80,000 at a fixed interest rate of 3%. Not surprisingly, the “loan” payments can be “deferred or fully amortized, according to ability to pay” (italics ours). Which in government terms means, “Here’s a few bucks we don’t expect to ever see again.” (This is where Karl Marx rejoices in his grave.)
Thanks to brave souls like Kim Seefeld, who almost single-handedly exposed the flaws and absurdity in these programs in her columns here and in the News-Press, and the founders of Montecito-based Homeowners Defense Fund who’ve donated their own money to help fight various statewide housing mandates, angry citizens may have finally fired the first shots in what could become an anti-affordable-housing-program revolution.
We are implementing a new way to combine the printed version of Montecito Journal and our online edition. In our letters sections and throughout the Journal instead of citing previous Journals for source information, we now are giving you the exact location via the internet archives, so you can access the information sited from any computer.
Thanks to the support of many Montecitans (there were more than 1,400 unique users the first month, and counting), our website has, so far, been a huge success. We have also received many emails critiquing and complimenting the website. We appreciate the feedback and will continually make upgrades and improvements to our website to make it more interactive. As of July 1, Guillaume Doane, our managing editor, will have his very own Local News section that will be updated daily. For the first time in Montecito history, there will be a news organ that will function and keep readers, residents, and citizens, updated daily on Montecito and Santa Barbara news.
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