Voter-approved housing bonds await disbursal; builders line up

first_img“It’s not only maintaining our current level of production, but it’s allowing us to triple our production in the next three years.” Habitat is just one of dozens of agencies scrambling to apply for money from Proposition 1C, approved by voters last November. Some economists question whether the bond allocation should be expedited, noting that the current housing slump provides an opportune time to fund construction. “I think they should (move more quickly) because you have a window of opportunity because of the slowdown in housing construction,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. But advocates and developers said the state Housing and Community Development Department appears to be disbursing the funds as quickly as guidelines allow. Public agencies that receive school and transportation bond funds generally do more long-term planning and so have projects in the pipeline for years, said Janet Huston, spokeswoman for Housing and Community Development. Private developers, however, are more dependent on market conditions and so need more time to prepare. “We are in the position of needing to wait for the private sector to find a piece of land, assemble the financing, get the architecture and engineering done, and then they come to us,” Huston said. “So for folks who are stepping up to the plate to put these kinds of projects together, it takes time.” Proposition 46, a $2.1 billion housing bond approved by voters in 2002, helped get more than 5,000 units built in Los Angeles and thousands more in Los Angeles County. City and county officials hope for similar results with the new bond. The San Fernando Valley affiliate of Habitat is working on a 62-unit project in Pacoima. About half the estimated cost of $7 million to $9 million is expected to come from bonds and other government programs, said Jack Shine, the group’s president. The Valley chapter also owns land at Cobalt Street and Foothill Boulevard, where it hopes to build at least 11 units, Shine said. “I have to believe that having that money, so that the Housing Department can give us the funding we want, is made easier by having bond money available,” Shine said. The disparity between housing prices and median income in L.A. is second only to New York City, according to Mercedes Marquez, general manager of the city’s Housing Department. In Los Angeles County, the median home price last month was $616,230, up 9 percent from the same month in 2006, according to the California Association of Realtors. Statewide, the median price was $564,700, up 5.7 percent from the prior year. The association estimates only 19 percent of first-time buyers can afford a home in Los Angeles County, the lowest level in the state. The California average is 25 percent, while the national average is 61 percent. “In Los Angeles, we have a perfect storm,” Marquez said. “We have very high land prices and very low median income, so it creates a very large affordability gap. “We have to subsidize that gap, which is very difficult for us.” [email protected] (916) 446-6723 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SACRAMENTO – Despite California’s desperate need for affordable housing and homeless shelters, it will take at least a year for work to start on scores of projects funded by $2.8 billion in recent voter-approved bonds. While billions of dollars from school and transportation bonds already have been allocated, red tape will keep housing funds from being disbursed until this summer. But Los Angeles developers are already lining up for the money, with some saying it will allow them to build three times more housing than they would have been able to otherwise. “It’s really important to us because if this funding had dried up, our production would have come to a standstill,” said Erin Rank, president of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, which hopes to build 90 below-market units in 2008 and 2009. last_img read more

Continue reading