As a homeless man in San Diego for the past two years, I’ve had time to research important bits of data scattered across the local news and public resources. What are the costs of paying for emergency room visits, for the crimes brought on by destitution and vagrancy versus this idea? Let’s begin.
My aim in this presentation is to propose a radical change in the approach to solving the systemic problem of homelessness in San Diego and to address the gaps in education and employment for veterans, the disabled and outcast workers with a criminal background who are not allowed to be productive in society.
Opportunity: To alleviate the crisis of homelessness in San Diego and supply American businesses with an educated workforce and create jobs to integrate veterans, the infirm, former inmates and other people considered outcasts back into society for a re-definition of the American dream: owning a home.
The Objective: To develop a prototype for a profitable colony of low-income housing solutions, enlisting the aid of a workforce made of homeless men and women, educated by volunteers, supported by health and human services agencies, guided by the talent of architects and city planners.
The Starting Point:
A central building styled like a rest stop, built to feature clean facilities for showering, washing laundry and communal cooking & socializing areas. Surrounding this first building, a radial plan of tiny homes will be built by volunteers and tenants.
This plan came together after I read about an effort in British Columbia, Canada in which students of the Emily Carr University (ECU) and Wood Manufacturing students from the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Advanced Wood Processing (CAWP) program built tiny homes to improve the lives of homeless men, women and families.
To honor the rich Hispanic heritage of San Diego I named my proposed project Las Casitas, Spanish for The Little Houses.
I began my research earnestly by emailing the Planning Department of the City of San Diego and it continues today with the more receptive Caltrans. My first email was to inquire about the possibility of using funds from the Inclusionary Affordable Housing Impact Fee, which is money pooled by the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) as a requirement for builders of new developments.
Truth is: I cannot get a clear answer from the SDHC on where the Housing Impact Fees are and what they’re being spent on. If I present a housing plan without doing the work of officials to provide numbers, the business plan outlined in the presentation won’t be taken seriously. Agencies will continue to shift their responsibilities to other agencies and the only reason I am submitting these Op-Eds is because frankly, theories do not convey the emergency state of the homeless, when people return to their offices the next day with complete indolence, year after year.
Regarding the links for the City of San Diego Municipal Code and the possible funds for In-fill developments:
The Inclusionary Affordable Housing Impact Fee for builders is a “black hole” or a WHY there are so many homeless folks in San Diego…because the City of San Diego does not REQUIRE that affordable housing is developed at a faster rate. This has been happening for well over 30 years. Consequently, San Diego is down thousands of rental units and why “tiny housing” is one solution to the historic negligence of the Mayor and council members over the decades!! (Not to let the County of SD Supervisors off the hook).
Unfortunately, these historic funds are generated by the inclusionary housing requirement for new developments, which theoretically should be 10% or more (for density bonuses) of the new housing development for low & moderate income households (30% Area Median Income (AMI), very, very low; 50% AMI very low, 80% AMI, low; 100% AMI, moderate).
The American Planning Association/social engineering theory is that by mixing the market rate housing with a small percent of low to moderate income renters, that economic integration and social & racial integration ought to happen over time.
Again, unfortunately the market rate developers have “cut a deal” with the City of San Diego to create a pool of money (housing impact fees) instead of any integration, for maximum profits of pure market rate rents, to be placed elsewhere for future affordable housing developments.(NIMDism or not in my development!)
HOW the future value or appraisal difference between the market rate value of 100% market versus 90% market is not calculated very well. Where that discounted “stream of income” is put for future use is a controversy in itself. It is hard to follow the convoluted and very complicated City of SD accounting of that money.
On to Caltrans, after I had a brilliant idea (yes, I can blow my own horn here) to use existing rest stops:
Info on Encroachment Permits
The cost to start the permit process is $492.
As for myself, do I need to set myself on fire in front of the Mayor’s office to call attention to this plan? Perhaps not. All I need is an authorization to build these tiny homes, with the possibility of having its tenants eventually move to designated areas in the city after a professional assessment of their needs, taking their tiny homes with them – or not. I’m quite sure that people on a fixed income such as retirees would love to use their backyard as a money-generating parcel of land through rental permits.
Part 2 of this plan requires a collaboration between government agencies, volunteers and tenants;
something called “moving parts” in bureaucratspeak.
The first priority is transportation to and from the colony to hospitals for healthcare needs, as well as factories and classrooms to train the tenants in jobs not fulfilled in the City. One option is converting trucks into mobile stores to deliver supplies and donations and freight trucks into mobile education units as reusable assets for other locations.
Father Joe’s Villages offers a program to train security guards. The need for safety would create a synergy with this program. Trash collection will be necessary, not to mention basic modern needs such as a computer lab in collaboration with the Department of Rehabilitation and other agencies.
The assistance of a successful existing 21st-century farming business such as Ecopia Farms (I’d love to approach them with this idea) will establish a location to employ the new residents and create a self-sustaining community, or at least start a business and thus relieve the tension of being unemployed and idle.
It is important to highlight that an entire group of people does not meet the strict requirements that federally-funded housing usually demands to receive assistance. Explore the LIHTC Program and a few guidelines for companies such as Community Housing Works. The inclusion of people considered outcasts from the system can prove to be a social experiment in Rehabilitation.
A clear advantage in establishing a residential and commercial area to work in is the convenience of merging educational, healthcare and social resources for all tenants. Every person in this program will benefit from the renewed hope in the American dream of owning a home at the end of the program and the possibility of becoming self-sufficient is attainable.
After the success of this first effort, this model can be replicated in any city or small town looking for a humane solution to an ongoing issue in society for far too long. Do we have a deal?
I will continue to share my experiences and events related to homelessness in San Diego. Thank you for reading this article. Stay tuned!