I Really Want to Be Wrong

Around the beginning of February I caught wind of the Permanent Source program here in California. Evidently the governor (and you all know his name) got it into his head that instead of a proposition here and a proposition there to raise funds for affordable housing, we should figure out a, well, a permanent source. So he sent Lynn Jacobs, the state’s Director of Housing and Community Development, all over the place to conduct meetings where interested parties could share their ideas about the program, specifically in three areas:

  • Suggested programs and types of projects that should be funded by a permanent source.
  • How should the funds be distributed?
  • Sources of funding.

As part of my coverage for FourStory, I’ve been to three of these meetings, in Irvine, Riverside, and Los Angeles. (There are five left; the schedule’s here.) And they’ve been a fine example of democracy in action. Each drew a wide range of attendees: advocates, developers, city officials, trade organizations, amateur lobbyists, pundits. Each featured an interesting range of opinions. And each had a bunch of people who were truly interested in solving the state’s affordable-housing problems, and a bunch who clearly had their vested interests in mind. It was comical at times, how disingenuous the partisans were. Someone would say something touching on, say, title insurance, and the title insurance partisan would jump out of her chair and rant, prefacing said rant by declaring she wasn’t there to defend the industry. But there’ve been good things said. (You can find links to each meeting’s notes on this page.) And they haven’t just been about what first comes to mind when he hear “affordable housing.” For instance, several times there was discussion of down-payment assistance for those who can afford a mortgage but can’t put together the nut. The first time I said, yeah, right, you can nearly afford a house in Orange County and you want Sacramento to help, while people are living on the streets? Screw you. Then Irvine Mayor Beth Krom said we shouldn’t necessarily see such a program as taking away from basic housing needs. That maybe we can fund it all. So I calmed down.

Director Jacobs

When all the meetings are over, Director Jacobs is going to take everything she’s gathered and cloister herself somewhere with her staff and try to come up with some recommendations. And, if we’re lucky, some of them will be implemented. And I’ll believe that when I see it. Not to be Mr. Negative (no matter how much I enjoy it), but the state’s cutting funds for stuff like education all over the place. And no matter how reasonable some of the ideas sound, if I simply sit back and look at the possibility of significant fundraising coming out of this, I’m not encouraged. But I really want to be wrong.

Nathan Walpow is the editor of FourStory.org, an affordable housing advocacy site concentrating on Southern California housing, transportation, and sustainability. He’s also the author of four Joe Portugal mystery novels, with the fifth, Bad Developments, currently appearing on FourStory as a weekly serial.


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