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Affordable-housing advocates push plan to preserve tax money for redevelopment

March 3, 2011 |  4:52 pm

For weeks, affordable housing advocates have been content to let local government leaders be the face of a public relations and lobbying battle to convince the Legislature to hold on to the state’s $5-billion redevelopment program, which requires 20% of the money to be spent on building affordable housing.

Gov. Jerry Brown proposed abolishing redevelopment programs and sending the property tax money they operate on to counties, school districts and the state instead, igniting a storm of protest from local leaders.

Now, concerned that local government is going to lose its battle in the Legislature, housing advocates are pushing their own proposal that would preserve about $1 billion a year in property tax money for affordable housing while allowing the rest of the state’s redevelopment program to fade away.

The proposal, being pushed by the Southern California Assn. of Nonprofit Housing, would require that starting in 2012, property tax money that previously went into redevelopment agencies’ housing funds instead go to local Councils of Government to give to cities to use to build affordable housing.

Jeff Schaffer, vice president of the Enterprise, which provides support to affordable-housing builders, said the proposal will “keep some mechanism alive [for] state funding flowing into affordable housing."

Without it, advocates warn, tens of thousands of people will be forced into substandard housing, overcrowded rentals or even homelessness. Or they will move farther into the exurbs, creating more sprawl and more traffic.

A Times investigation last fall found that many redevelopment agencies skirted or ignored laws requiring them to build affordable housing and in the process mismanaged hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars. Following that, lawmakers introduced legislation to reform the process, calling for more audits and stricter requirements on how the money was spent.

Advocates said their new proposal would also incorporate reforms.

It is unclear how much support the proposal has in the Legislature, which is preparing to vote on the budget as soon as next week.

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-- Jessica Garrison

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