Dellums and the State housing bond money: reality check

Yesterday, I posted a list of what other cities got in this round of state bond grants. Today, I’d like to offer some commentary. But first, let’s hear what Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums had to say. You can watch his speech on his website, but I’ve kindly transcribed it for you here in case you don’t want to bother.

I have four points that I would like to make. First, we’re announcing grants totaling in excess of 12 million dollars that will come to the city of Oakland.

On behalf of the residents of Oakland, our government officials, and our private partners, housing partners, I would like to thank everyone that brings us to this moment, including the voters of the State of California and the distinguished members of our Bay Area State legislative delegation for their hard work, diligence, and focus on behalf of our residents. That said, I would specifically like to personally thank Governor Schwarzenegger, Secretary Bonner, and Director Jacobs for their support, for their partnership, and for their willingness to collaborate with Oakland as we embark upon an ambitious effort to realize Oakland as a model city.

Secondly, as I’ve said at the very beginning, we could not achieve this vision of Oakland as a model city without multi-jurisdictional collaboration. Oakland’s budget alone could not get us there. We lack the necessary resources. Therefore, today is a extraordinarily wonderful example of city-state collaboration on behalf of the most vulnerable in our community. I am appreciative and I thank them for bringing us to this moment.

Thirdly, these grants will provide resources for first home buyers. Dollars will be available. Secondly, money is available in this twelve plus million dollars for housing for senior citizens and the homeless. And thirdly, there will be resources to improve recreational facilities, library facilities, for seniors, children, and youth. Again, the most vulernable in our community.

Finally, it is my genuine and sincere hope that we will go forward with this successful partnership and we look forward to future collaborations with the State of California as we make a mighty effort to realize our vision of Oakland as a model city.

Okay, I also have four points that I would like to make.

1. Listening to his speech, you’d think that Dellums just randomly asked Schwarzenegger for $12 million and then got it. Doubtlessly, we will soon be treated to another hagiographic screed from Jesse Douglas Allen-Taylor, praising Dellums’s vision and leadership in landing this windfall. So let’s just make sure we’re all clear on what happened here. The California Department of Housing and Community Development released $290.6 million in housing bond money to cities across the state. Overall, we made out nicely. But…

While the $12 million will be going towards housing in Oakland, most of the money is not going to the City itself. Oakland-based organizations applied for and received grants for Oakland-based projects totaling $8.8 million. The City itself received $1 million in CalHome funds (to assist first time homebuyers) and $1 million in emergency shelter funding. The remainder of Oakland’s portion was part of a program where cities are given grants for capital projects based on the number of low and very low income housing units they permitted during 2006. So we shouldn’t give Dellums too much credit. (As a point of comparison, last summer (PDF!) we brought home $15.3 million out of the $210 million in Prop. 46 funds dispensed.)

2. Housing is expensive. For nearly $11 million, we’re getting 151 homes and 99 shelter beds. Now I’m not trying to belittle that benefit. For the people who will be able to have a home due to these funds, they mean the world. And every needy person we can provide a bed and a roof for is a step in the right direction. I voted for Prop. 1C and endorsed it on my blog, and I also voted for Prop. 46.

Satellite Housing will be using their $6.8 million for 126 affordable units, and our $1 million for first time homebuyers will assist 25 residents with downpayments and home rehabilitation. At that rate, looking to state grants for answers is never going to make a dent in our problems. Our elected officials must start looking for alternative solutions using our own resources if we want to create real social change.

3. That $1.3 million grant we’re allegedly using to improve parks and libraries? It was awarded based on the city’s production of low-income housing in 2006. Out of all the California cities receiving these grants, Oakland ranked fifth in creation of incentive units. A portion of the property tax increment in redevelopment areas is dedicated to providing affordable housing. While anti-growth activists love to insist that development has no benefits for long-term residents, these very real affordable units provided by the tax increment provides a tangible counterpoint to their assertions.

4. I lied. I only had three.