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City-owned land could become affordable homes

The City of Encinitas will enter into negotiations with San Diego Habitat for Humanity to lease current city-owned land for use of building two affordable homes.

The two parcels, located at 750 Leucadia Boulevard and totaling about 16,700 square feet, are both currently vacant and were previously leased to Specimen House for 17 years before they terminated their lease in September 2016, when the city took ownership, according to a city document.

Since then, the units have only been used for occasional temporary storage by the Parks and Recreation Department.

The council voted 4 to 1, with council member Mark Muir dissenting, on May 24 to negotiate with San Diego Habitat for Humanity to build two affordable homes, along with two accessory dwelling units, that will be open to people who live and work in Encinitas as a first priority.

According to a staff report, the adjacent Shea Homes project to the east will construct 13 single-family homes, which includes a density bonus of seven homes, one of which is affordable. Additionally, Shea Homes proposes working with the city and Habitat for Humanity to construct two affordable homes on the city-owned property.

Lori Holt Pfeiler, president/CEO for San Diego Habitat for Humanity, said potential home buyers must make 50 to 80 percent of the area income, which she said would be between $68,000 and $72,000 per year for a four-member family in Encinitas. Mortgages would range between $225,000 and $250,000.

Homebuyers help build the house if it is not yet developed, she said. According to city staff, the parcels are not currently ready for construction and there are also potential improvement costs that are currently unspecified.

Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz voiced concern about the risks for the city in the partnership should something go wrong after the homes are sold to buyers. Pfeiler assured him that “San Diego Habitat for Humanity has never failed on a project in its 30-year existence.”

Muir said he can’t support the idea due to concerns from the community about the lack of open space. However, Mayor Catherine Blakespear said she supported it because of how rare it is for the city to come across city-owned land where it could provide affordable housing.

The homes could be allotted to help the city meet the state’s Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) numbers, Pfeiler said.

Encinitas is the only city in San Diego County without a Housing Element, a required document that spells out how a city proposes to rework its zoning to accommodate its future housing needs, particularly those of low-income people, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. The city’s original plan, which it is still working off of, was created in the 1990s.

The city’s last effort for a Housing Element — Measure T — failed in the November election. The plan called for allowing additional housing on a series of sites along busy roadways in all five communities of Encinitas. In order to meet state targets for new housing growth, the plan proposed easing city height restrictions and allowing 20 to 30 dwelling units per acre on those sites.

Habitat for Humanity’s lease for the two parcels would be 55 years.


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