Opinion » Shredder

The housing trap

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Anybody have a refrigerator box under a plastic tarp in their backyard I can rent? My pet marmot, Carl, and I are very quiet. Bathroom privileges would be nice, but yes, I know better than to ask for kitchen privileges. It's fine. It's not like I can afford food anyway ... or pay for utilities. I mean, it would be nice to be able to afford to buy a house where I work, but this is San Luis Obispo, after all. I know better.

Who to blame? First Oprah told everyone we're the "Happiest City in America" (Take that, Disneyland!) and then the website College Rank named us "Best College Town in America" (Suck it, Berkeley!), and now Outside magazine has named SLO one of its "25 Best Towns Ever: Where to Live Now" (Way to lose, San Francisco!), so I guess I'm never going to be able to afford a house. Maybe if I work hard I can find a shared room for 1,200 bucks, but your refrigerator box is looking pretty good right about now. You do accept small squirrel-like pets, yes?

Between rich parents buying houses as investment properties while their children attend Cal Poly, wealthy retirees buying up houses to get in on this "happy" thing we've supposedly got going, and predatory slumlords and their "passive income," I don't stand a chance on a shredder's salary. Let's see: The calculation is 30 percent of your income, so $30K x .3 is $9,000 a year, carry the one, divide by 12, plus the square root of 11 ... OK, I should be able to pay for a median-priced $540,000 home in exactly 60 years provided I'm charged zero interest and I live that long. Any banks out there interested in my loan parameters? Anyone? Hello?

I think SLO County Supervisors Bruce Gibson (District 2) and Adam Hill (District 3) had a point in their Tribune commentary ("SLO County has a housing crisis. Two supervisors have a $5 million plan to help," June 8). In the run-up to the SLO County Board of Supervisors' annual budget meeting on June 12, Gibson and Hill explained in their commentary how the conservative majority on the board—John Peschong (District 1), Lynn Compton (District 4), and Debbie Arnold (District 5)—has rejected the need for low-cost housing.

"The most pressing issue, of the greatest moral urgency, is housing," Gibson and Hill wrote. "The playing field for this discussion has been tilted by the board majority."

Gibson and Hill are certainly correct that SLO County suffers from a dearth of affordable housing, but is this how local government works? Is it standard operating procedure to try to shame your colleagues in the press before a budget meeting?

"Already, they have signaled that their spending priorities ignore our most critical issue—the dire unaffordability of housing for wage earners and young families, and the explosion of homelessness—and instead their choices bestow benefits on those who already have homes and property," Gibson and Hill wrote.

So what's their solution? According to the dynamic Democratic duo, they see $5 million in the proposed budget that Peschong, Compton, and Arnold have earmarked to benefit their Richie Rich friends that could instead be given to nonprofit builders such as Peoples' Self-Help Housing or Habitat for Humanity, which could then be leveraged to "secure state and federal funds" to build "as many desperately needed apartment units, small houses, and co-housing complexes as possible—as quickly as possible," and to "assure county residents the ability to not just rent, but buy these low-cost homes."

That sounds like a fantastic plan! Did you run it by staff? Did you pitch it to your colleagues in a public meeting? Did you do any of the normal things politicians do to move their agenda forward, or did you set up a disingenuous "gotcha" ploy where you wrote a public commentary for a plan you knew would be rejected at the annual budget meeting so you could cry foul and accuse your political opponents of not caring about the poor and homeless? Um, yeah, ya gone and done that last one.

"What I see is an at-the-last-minute, hail mary attempt," Compton said during the budget meeting. "Now to say you want to take $5 million from things we've already voted on to me is crazy."

Crazy like a fox? Hey, Gibson and Hill, isn't this the kind of stunt you accused Compton of when she got her discussion of proposed Nipomo-area parks on the agenda? Remember how Hill went apoplectic, accusing Compton of lying and agitating the public with said lies, leading to a gaggle of Nipomoites showing up at the meeting to decry the lack of spending for public amenities? Or remember that time y'all were pissed when it appeared the conservative supes got together in violation of the Brown Act to trot out their revised version of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act plan? I guess when liberals pull these shenanigans it's coolio, but when the conservative cabal does it it's high treason.

Look, entire board of SLO County supervisors, we need affordable housing. Tarp-covered refrigerator boxes are nice and all, but at some point you five need to work together to actually solve the problem instead of pointing fingers and playing gotcha politics. Yes, it's very entertaining, but I can't sleep under it.

The Shredder lives in the box he came in. Send ideas and comments to shredder@newtimesslo.com.



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