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Letters to the Editor: How rich land speculators gave us $1-million affordable housing

A low-income housing complex is seen being rehabbed in San Francisco on June 17.
A low-income housing complex is being rehabbed in San Francisco on June 17.
(Paul Kuroda / For The Times)
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To the editor: Your article “Affordable housing in California now routinely tops $1 million per apartment to build” neglects to mention another driver of building costs — real-estate speculation involving existing housing.

Investors use loopholes in state tenant protection laws to evict long-term residents from older homes, which they then remodel and sell or rent to new tenants who can pay more. This drives up “market rate” rents for everyone in the neighborhood, which is then reflected in the “value” of the land that for-profit and nonprofit developers compete to build on.

Lawmakers need to protect current tenants and regulate and tax real estate investors, whose business model is predicated on Californian’s housing precarity. Perhaps if lawmakers didn’t accept so much money in real estate interest group donations, they would be more willing to do so.

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Francisco Dueñas, Los Angeles

The writer is executive director of Housing Now!, a housing advocacy group.

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To the editor: I appreciate The Times calling attention to the shockingly high cost of affordable housing, but you left out an important detail — the cost of building one market-rate unit in San Francisco averages around $800,000, one of the highest such costs in the nation, but still not as much as the cost to build affordable housing in many cases.

As your article points out, the 20% difference is mainly because affordable housing developers must pay the prevailing wage to workers, meet the highest environmental standards, and seek as many as six or seven funding sources to make a project pencil out.

We need to simplify this process, but we also need systemic change so we can scale up production and thereby reduce costs. We also need innovative policies, like rezoning religious land for affordable housing.

Our faith-based housing justice nonprofit is advocating for this zoning change, since many churches have underutilized land and want to be good stewards by using it to address our state’s housing crisis.

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Anthony Manousos, Pasadena

The writer is co-founder of the group Making Housing Happen.

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To the editor: California taxpayers are generous; however, it is absolutely ludicrous to spend approximately $1 million to build a subsidized apartment. Who is responsible, and exactly how do they intend to demonstrate their commitment to appropriate stewardship of taxpayer funds?

At a cost of $1 million per apartment in some areas of the state, I cannot envision a resolution of our housing crisis in the foreseeable future.

Steve Stracke, Vista

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