The chronic lack of affordable housing in Santa Cruz is a multi-dimensional problem, with multiple roots and ramifications. As such it requires multiple solutions. We concur with the many affordable housing scholars, developers, and activists who have framed these solutions in terms of “the 3 P’s” that will be necessary to alleviate the crisis. This includes:
Productionof new affordable housing
Preservation of existing affordable housing
Protection of tenants, so they can afford their rents, avoid displacement, and defend their rights
Within each of the 3 P’s, there are a number of policy and political options communities can pursue.
For each of these, there is also the question of the scale(s) at which the option will be pursued: city, county, state, and/or federal. Any effective housing platform will require some mix of local, state, and federal engagement —whether to finance new affordable buildings, create a community land trust, or to protect tenants facing discrimination. In addition, the question of the timing of the initiative is crucial. For instance, since new affordable housing can take so long to finance, gain political support for, and build, it is important first, in the immediate short-term, to preserve existing housing and protect tenants facing displacement.. Indeed, if done in reverse, the displacement caused by lack of protection and preservation can wipe out any net gains made from building new affordable units. At the same time, over the longer term, increased production of affordable housing units will be vital to add supply in a rent regulated market.
In what follows we lay out a few of the policy and political options we recommend for each of the “P’s”. Where possible, we discuss current ballot measures or political initiatives, locally, statewide, and nationally, that people can support and take action on.
Finally, in advocating action, we would add a fourth “P” to the mix: Politics.
It is important that the majority who are in need of affordable housing –renters, low and moderate income homeowners, families, seniors, people with disabilities, workers, students—organize themselves through tenant unions, community-labor partnerships, neighborhood groups, and statewide and national coalitions to collectively envision and push for these solutions.