“Del Mar to Phase Out Rental Subsidy Program”
That front page headline in the Del Mar Times jumped out at me because my neighbor is one of the four recipients of these rent subsidies, and I know that losing his living situation here in Del Mar will be catastrophic for him. The Council’s plan is to phase out this program which in recent years has been largely funded by the city and administered by Del Mar Community Connections (DMCC). They have tasked Interim City Manager Ashley Jones to help these four vulnerable tenants make a “smooth transition.”
Given the dearth of affordable housing this sounds like an impossible task. DMCC Board President, Terry Kopanski, is quoted as saying that these Del Mar residents are all extremely vulnerable. My neighbor, who is a lovely, smart and caring individual, has lived in Del Mar for some thirty years. He is the survivor of a serious car accident that left him with permanent damage to his balance, hearing, and speech. He relies on a walker for balance and he cannot drive. His living situation in Del Mar has enabled him to fulfill his desire to live independently in spite of his disability for over twenty years. Key to his independence is the walkability of Del Mar, his close proximity to a bus stop, his support from a number of neighbors willing to lend a hand, nearby restaurants, and of course the shopping and transportation services provided by DMCC. All of his doctors are here.
These four tenants pay the affordable rental rate (in a city with no affordable housing) and the city makes up the balance. Years ago when this program began it supported eight families with plans to expand to 16. Over time through budgetary attrition it is now down to just four. It seems to me that we made a commitment to these neighbors so that they could remain in Del Mar and we should stand behind our commitment until they decide to leave of their own accord.
It is naive to think that placing them in another city, even if we could find affordable apartments, would provide a “soft landing” for them. There is no substitute for their loss of community. The council must recognize the dramatic consequences this change would incur. We may be in a tight budgetary spot at the moment, but we are a city of means. We are a community that prioritizes its residents and supports an organization like DMCC precisely because their stated goal is to help our seniors age independently and vibrantly in their homes. The shortfall in this program is about $70,000 per year for the four residents. That is not an insurmountable amount of money. The council just needs to find the will to make it happen for these four neighbors.