Commentary: Honor Our Promises

Del Mar’s long term deplorable record of resistance to providing our share of affordable housing is rearing its ugly head again.


This time it involves a threat to evict the four remaining families in our rental subsidy program dating back to the mid ‘80s. The four low income families receive subsidies that make up the gap between the market rent and 30% of their income. Our city budget funded the program out of a “housing fund” fed by federal grants and developer fees. The program supported eight families for several decades with the goal of increasing the number to 16 families. We explicitly cited this program in several of our state housing element plans as one of our affordable housing programs, even though it did not count toward our assigned allocation of new units.


The federal grants were discontinued and developer fees are no longer available. Consequently, the housing fund began to diminish, as did the number of families in the program. Several years ago members of the Del Mar Housing Corporation convinced the Council to use a 0.5% increase in the hotel tax (TOT) paid by visitors to replenish the housing fund for this program and other housing efforts. At the time, Council Members would not create a dedicated line item in the budget, as they do for the business community, but assured advocates that the funds would be dedicated to housing.


Last year the Council majority notified the participants that the subsidies were to be discontinued, in effect an eviction notice. Concerned community members urged the Council not to renege on our long commitment to these families. The Council relented, extending the subsidies for only one year and promising to find an alternative to eviction.


The Council agenda lists a new item as a “compromise.”  The city offers to cover one half of the expense if the community mounts a matching fundraising program from private donations. It is time for this city to stop holding these four remaining families hostage. We need to honor our commitments to these families who are our neighbors and friends–Create a line item in the budget using funds from the general fund, TOT, and perhaps a new tax on short term rentals. Terminate the subsidy program only after current occupants leave.


Del Mar has already earned a reputation for evading its share in the state’s massive housing shortage. Why ask for another “elitist” headline, “Del Mar Evicts Four Families”?