The San Diego Foundation has given a $10 million grant to the County of San Diego to build 10,000 units of affordable housing throughout the region.
Although no site or sites yet have been identified for development, the money will seed a new Housing Impact Fund that The San Diego Foundation hopes will help accelerate the production and preservation of housing.
The county’s plan is to combine available government-owned land, philanthropic resources, state and national funding, developers and homebuilders for the development of the units.
The Housing Impact Fund falls in with The San Diego Foundation’s mission of finding community solutions to improve the quality of life in the region.
“Housing availability and affordability is crippling our economy, causing current generations of San Diegans to slip into poverty and homelessness, and forcing future generations to leave,” said The San Diego Foundation President and CEO Mark Stuart.
Stuart said that in partnering with the county on housing solutions, the entities are looking to corporations, other foundations and philanthropists to join them in a goal of raising $100 million for development of new housing, “so our nurses, teachers, technicians and other working families have the opportunity to prosper, thrive and feel like they belong.”
The seed funding is the largest grant since The San Diego Foundation was born in 1975 as The San Diego Community Foundation.
San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher in his State of the County address in late March outlined proposals that he said would provide additional help for the homeless, increase the speed of building affordable housing, address the high cost of childcare, wildfire safety and more.
Moving Forward for ‘Real Change’ in Housing Policy
Fletcher said “failed housing policies of the past” aren’t working and that the county must keep moving forward “for real change.”
Fletcher said that the county is on pace to issue more than 1,600 building permits for new housing in unincorporated San Diego County, which is up nearly 50 percent from last year.
Fletcher said the county is getting out of the decades of litigation that bogged down progress, that the Board changed the way it approves housing “and in doing so greenlighted 4,000 units of housing that can be built cheaper and faster.”
He said the region’s housing needs can’t be met only in rural, unincorporated areas alone and that “we are taking swift action to convert underutilized county-owned land, in urban areas, into housing.”
He said there are 1,000 units underway, with more locations being made available.
“Since we know this approach works, building affordable housing on government-owned land, let’s do it at scale,” Fletcher said. “Not 100 here or 300 there… bring your surplus land and let’s put together a package to master plan 10,000 units of affordable housing.”
The San Diego Foundation Board Chair Steve Klosterman said that the foundation “is ready to work with county, city, corporate and philanthropic leaders to advance affordable housing in San Diego.”
The San Diego Foundation will partner with the county, community leaders and San Diego-based LeSar Development Consultants on a plan for the 10,000 new units.
LeSar Development Consultants works on public policy and planning, real estate technical services, homelessness, affordable housing and community development.
According to its 2021 annual report, The San Diego Foundation shared more than $104 million in grant funds, the majority of it to local nonprofit organizations. The Foundation has granted more than $1.2 billion to San Diego nonprofits in its 47 years.
The county has been steadfast in its ongoing efforts to bring more affordable housing units to the region.
Preserving Affordable Housing
In 2017, the County established the Innovative Housing Trust Fund to provide gap financing for developments that create or preserve affordable housing.
A March 2022 report from the county said that the $50 million invested in the fund has leveraged $567 million in other public and private funds to create and preserve nearly 1,400 permanent affordable housing units within 20 developments in 15 communities.
Last August, the board of supervisors increased funding by $20 million to reach the $70 million mark.
“I am excited to work with (Fletcher) and our regional partners on creating an evidence-based regional master plan for tens of thousands of affordable environmentally friendly homes,” said County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer. “It will be an important step toward solving one of San Diego’s most vexing issues.”
The San Diego Foundation
PRESIDENT/CEO: Mark Stuart
HEADQUARTERS: Liberty Station, Point Loma
BUSINESS: Community foundation
REVENUE: $12.88 million in FY 2021
NOTABLE: The $10 million grant toward 10,000 new housing units is the largest in San Diego Foundation history.