By Kristina Pritchett
With one month to go before Dana Point residents head to their polling stations to cast their votes for two new City Council members, the Dana Point Times sat down with each of the five candidates and asked them the same five questions.
In this week’s issue, we’re featuring the candidates’ answers to the question, “Would you push for future development to reserve a portion of units for affordable housing, on top of the state’s mandates?”
Many feel like Dana Point is unaffordable for middle-income families and young people, in particular. We asked the candidates if they generally agreed with this perception and if the city has any role in carving out housing options outside of the state’s low-income mandates.
The candidates’ responses are in the order in which their names will appear on the ballot.
Nadia Khalil, Travel Agent
Khalil said she would not push for additional affordable housing mandates in the city.
“I would think they would have to adhere to the state’s laws, and I think the laws clearly state within some square footage of development, then there will be affordable housing,” Khalil said. “Not everyone can afford to live here, and everybody else shouldn’t be punished because of it.”
She added she believes affordable housing will be an issue with the recent approval of short-term rentals.
“It’s going to cause real estate to either cause a dive or a hike, but it’s going to be in the wrong direction,” Khalil said.
She added she hears “that affordable housing word” a lot.
“When I listen to people state the fact that they have to go into short-term rentals because they can’t afford their mortgage, and the stories of ‘I was single, my husband left me,’… I think that’s an excuse to turn the neighborhoods into hotels,” she said.
Khalil said she’s a single mom and has four children and has been in a situation to which many people can relate.
“But I knew what to do responsibly,” Khalil said. “We sorely missed that lesson to not only giving it to our youth, but also people that come in and are crying poor in order for new laws and regulations to be passed for them. You need to learn how to be responsible like all individuals do.”
Paul Wyatt, Retired Engineering Executive
Wyatt said there needs to be a bigger population of younger people in the city, and that more affordable housing could help encourage that.
“To make it vibrant, you need people in their 20s and 30s to come in there, it needs to happen to make it possible to live here,” Wyatt said. “I don’t think Dana Point does anything at the moment to deal with that. When I looked at current projects, like Majestic or Zephyr, there were no carved out affordable units in any of those, which is a bit disturbing.”
Wyatt said that ten percent of those projects, or in any new development, should be carved out for affordable housing rates.
“And then you want to use the state’s mandates to increase density and some of the breaks you get from the state,” Wyatt said. “If Dana Point simply carved out ten percent and then had five percent (more), you’d have 10-15 percent affordable housing; it would make a big difference in what could be done in the area.”
He said the projects will bring in a good profit, and the developers should still be able to make a profit while making affordable units available.
“If you look at the townhouses they’re building in Zephyr, it’s a beautiful area, but those townhouses are valuable and the money they’re going to bring is valuable,” Wyatt said. “You could carve out some affordable housing out of there and still make money on that project.”
Debra Lewis, Small Business Owner
Lewis said she was not all that informed on the affordable housing subject in the city, but she said she would need to look at the area’s mandates and “see where Dana Point is” before commenting definitively on any need for more affordable housing.
“(I would need to see:) could we do more? And if so, how?” Lewis said. “What is the way to do it? And, the people support it, it’s another hot button, if you don’t have people coming along with you, you’re going to have angry people.”
Lewis said it would be something she would consider and ask specific questions about.
“So that’s something I would look at and say where are we, where is our affordable housing?” Lewis said. “Do we have enough for the state mandate, and if not, how are we going to correct it? If we do [have enough], is there something we can do more? Because we do have homeless people, we have a problem that we as a country, state, have not addressed, and it’s getting worse and worse.”
She agreed with Wyatt that the city needs more young people.
“I think Dana Point could use an influx of younger people. We are a pretty old demographic, and if we’re going to be a vital city, then you need a diverse population, so that may be a good way to do it,” Lewis said.
Penny Maynard¸ Non-profit consultant
When asked if she would push for more mandates on affordable housing if elected, Maynard said she believes the city is “pretty much built out.”
“So, there’s not a lot of opportunity for that,” Maynard said. “To be honest, I know the city has worked on it, and is obviously aware; it’s been 10 years or something that they wanted this.”
Maynard said she would need to look into affordable housing before sharing a definitive plan.
“That’s a question I would probably have to look into more detail when I’m in that position to make that decision or take a position on it,” Maynard said. “I realize that there should be (a discussion on affordable housing). And I know the city is working on it, but I’m not up to speed on it, exactly what the status is now. Occasionally I’ll read something on it.”
When asked if Maynard thinks the city is affordable for middle class families or young people, Maynard said “it could be challenging for some.”
“I live in a community where houses start at a million dollars,” Maynard said, adding that the size of families and what homeowners are looking for in a home are key factors in determining if the city only has expensive homes, or has housing options, which might have fewer amenities, at a lower cost.
Michelle Brough, Businesswoman/Investment Attorney
When asked if she would enforce more city mandates for affordable housing, Brough said she does not believe the city should be involved in such an enterprise.
“I’m a private property, private sector advocate, and I know in Virginia they’re doing some very creative things for affordable housing. But its employer-driven so hotels or whatnot, any business benefits from having their employees near them. So, if that’s something they want to pursue, then I’d say a business is more than able to pursue it as long as it’s in the code and the law. They’re doing that in Virginia so there are cases out there.” Brough said.
She added that she believes that could be beneficial for employers, “especially with the big hotels,” but it would ultimately be up to those companies.
“I don’t think the city should enforce it, or add more (mandated affordable units),” Brough said.
When asked if Brough believes the city is affordable for middle-class families and younger people, she said “it’s tough.”
“(My husband) and I are young, but we have two young children, and it’s a struggle for us,” Brough said. “It’s a choice of what you’re going to give up to live here.”
She added that some of the city’s ordinances, zoning codes and laws make “prices go up,” and it’s “a whole combination.”
“It is a struggle. You’re making a choice to live in an area that’s expensive, so what are you going to give up? You think about choices, life is about choices and that’s one of them,” Brough said.