How would you maximize the efficacy of the $250M affordable housing bond (assume that it passes)?

Bobby Levinski

City Council, District 8

I support the proposed housing bond, and over the years, it has always been my priority to find and generate as much resources as we can for low-income housing. These bonds should be prioritized to support the development of housing by non-profit and governmental entities in areas of town that are “housing deficient”. People often talk about wanting to put low-income housing in “high opportunity areas” instead of “low opportunity areas”, but these labels miss the point and are horribly offensive to communities that should be valued. The negative connotation and emphasis should be shifted towards areas that lack housing opportunities for all families.

Circa 2006-07, I helped establish and administer the Affordable Housing Incentives Taskforce, from which derived the City’s core principles on housing (deeper affordability, longer-term affordability, and geographic dispersion). We have vast areas of the City, especially central and western, where the lack of low-income housing is at critical deficiency.

Public housing is the most effective way to ensure we are building housing now for those that the market won’t serve. We can create and leverage housing opportunities for low-income families in housing deficient areas (where land values tend to be higher – e.g., central and west) by land banking and using community land trusts, building publicly-owned and managed housing and generating other resources to augment the bonds through density bonus programs.

As a related aside, several years ago, the City Council had an opportunity to buy “The Gove” (75 acres of land near 45th and Bull Creek) from the State for a fraction of the actual market value. Had the City Council gone through with that purchase, overnight we would have created $20-40 million of potential benefits for low-income housing. We wouldn’t have had to rely on trying to extract some marginal benefits from the developer in a horse-trading exercise within a land use debate. This was a huge missed opportunity to get significant levels of income-restricted housing in an area of town where it is very difficult and expensive to achieve. We need to establish a fund that is set aside to take advantage of similar, future opportunities, whether such funds are from the bond or through other general fund resources.