Sacramento County affordable housing in jeopardy

Two new low-income buildings take off as the future of low-income housing grim

This new low-income housing complex at Seventh and H streets opens later this month.

This new low-income housing complex at Seventh and H streets opens later this month.


Independent reporting for this story is funded by a grant from Sacramento Emergency Foodlink.

No money, need home

Last Friday, Mayor Christopher Cabaldon and the people of West Sacramento broke ground for the city’s newest addition in affordable housing: a 70-unit complex designed to accommodate four-person families living on less than $35,000 a year.

Across the river here in Sacramento, the 7th & H Street Housing Community prepares to finally open its doors on April 29.

But rather than celebrate the grand opening of this 150-unit low-income apartment building, affordable-housing advocates are concerned with what lies ahead for Sacramento.

This is the last affordable-housing project in the pipeline for the city, and (as if that’s not bad enough) Sacramento County is in danger of seriously reducing affordable-housing requirements for the region’s developers, a move that could put the working class, the formerly homeless and veterans, among others, in jeopardy of ending up out on the streets.

Sacramento County has historically mandated that 15 percent of all housing developments be made with the lower classes in mind—specifically, 6 percent for low-income, 6 percent for very-low-income and 3 percent for extremely low-income households.

But a vote by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors late last month left these numbers out, and advocates are concerned by what this might mean for the future of affordable housing in the county.

“It pretty much tells you that they’re going to go in and decimate the housing ordinance,” said Tamie Dramer of the Sacramento Housing Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing quality affordable housing to the region’s lower classes.

Ever since August of last year, the SHA and other outfits like it have been sitting across the table from the California Building Industry Association in talks with the county on the future of low-income-housing mandates. While SHA wants to keep the affordable-housing requirements at 15 percent, the BIA is trying to cut it back to 8 percent, and 4 percent for low income, 4 percent for very low income and with no requirements whatsoever for extremely low-income households.

The BIA was unable to comment to SN&R by this story’s deadline, but the situation essentially is a classic battle of left and right, with one side saying the current requirements are necessary to keep the less fortunate among us in homes, and the other side arguing that the requirements are a hindrance to business, and thus bad for the economy and the region’s well-being.

“Obviously, there are strongly held opinions, but the individuals at the table have been very professional,” said Sacramento County’s Leighann Moffitt. “It’s a great group, but they just don’t agree.”

According to Moffitt, the issue boils down to determining what tools are available to produce quality housing for those in the low-income brackets.

But the county’s vote last week was enough to raise alarms on the left side of the table. Despite the fact that no further decisions will take place until a study comes back to the county (presumably in May), the SHA recently brought Dramer on full time to increase awareness in the region surrounding affordable housing.

Until then, it looks like Sacramento will leave the affordable-housing game to our friends across the river.