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Redevelopment and Affordable Housing

With all the debate about the Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to abolish redevelopment agencies, the human aspect of that potential action gets lost in the scrum.

Affordable housing is a lot more than the number of jobs and dollars generated, or lost. It can be a lifeline for seniors on fixed incomes or a new life for families who earn minimum wages or are down on their luck.

It also can make all the difference in the world to children.

One of the most important and precious beneficiaries of affordable housing are children who will be hurt the most if development of affordable housing, especially rental housing, stops due to lack of funding. “Lack of affordable rental housing can lead to crowding and household stress,” according to Orange County’s 2010 Community Indicators report. “Less affordable rental housing also restricts the ability of renters to save for a down payment on a home, limiting their ability to eventually realize the long-term financial advantages of homeownership. Ultimately, a shortage of affordable housing for renters can instigate a cycle of poverty.”

Affordable, quality housing can be a powerful remedy for many social, physical and mental ills, especially for children.

Some of the benefits of affordable housing that can improve a child’s life include:

• A lot of affordable housing built in urban areas today is near schools so children can either walk or take a short bus ride. This improves attendance and promotes continual learning.

• Most contemporary affordable housing projects have access to community facilities such as parks, swimming pools, playfields and greenbelts, all of which add to a child’s health and well-being.

• A study by Children’s HealthWatch found that children living in affordable housing were less likely to be seriously underweight or overweight than children whose families live in substandard housing.

• Affordable housing and services can usually help victims of domestic abuse escape the physical and mental health trauma caused by abuse and avoid the health risks associated with homelessness.

By promoting ownership and management of quality affordable rental housing with the availability of subsidies such as those provided through redevelopment agencies, property owners who care about their residents and take their maintenance and management responsibilities seriously will find affordable housing an attractive investment.

In Orange County, Jamboree Housing Corp. owns and operates 14 senior and family apartment communities that provide affordable housing for nearly 1,000 children.

Statewide, there are an estimated 3,500 children living in Jamboree’s 44 family communities. The waiting lists for families who want to move into one of our properties ranges from one to five years, with some of the longest waiting lists in OC.

Children who live in our properties also benefit from our Housing with Heart resident services program that provides young people with a variety of free services, including tutoring and homework assistance, arts and crafts classes, as well as supervised play and socializing time. Most of our properties also have a fully equipped computer lab and a lending library.

So how does redevelopment funding fit into this picture?

In OC alone, Jamboree has leveraged $32.5 million in redevelopment funds to develop 14 family apartment properties at a cost of $222.5 million. In OC and throughout California, without redevelopment money there simply will not be enough funding to create adequate affordable housing to satisfy even current demand.

California’s 400-plus redevelopment agencies are the state’s second largest funders of affordable housing, second only to the federal government.

We need to take care of our own and especially our youth. Children deserve the opportunity for a better life, which requires quality housing that is affordable to their parents. They should be able to live in a safe neighborhood, eat healthy food, attend school, dream happy dreams, play with their friends, and look forward to each day with enthusiasm.

Archuleta is president of Irvine-based affordable housing developer Jamboree Housing Corp.

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