The Tuesday December 15, 2015, Sacramento City Council meeting focused on the city’s plans for housing and payroll cuts. This is while developers are finishing work on the new Golden One Sports and Entertainment Arena and the council agreed to preliminary plans for a Major League Soccer Stadium near downtown.
Three key plans were the focus; the Downtown housing initiative toolkit, the city’s post-employment benefits, and housing plans for the homeless.
Sacramento’s Downtown Housing initiative toolkit, led by Mayor Kevin Johnson, promises to provide 10,000 new housing units to Sacramento’s downtown area in 10 years (Sacramento). The Housing Initiative was marked as a priority project by the Mayor and launched earlier in 2015.
The plan is based on four key levers; processes, policies, incentives (SMUD discounts), and information (existing studies and development plans, and links to forms and applications). Developers agreed to 2015 deliverables including; the official marketing launch and development plan toolkit.
The toolkit was launched Tuesday and became available to the public online. Denton Kelly managing principle and Wendy Saunders executive director reported that in 2015 the plan has already provided, 224 new market rate homes, 253 new affordable homes, and 154 affordable homes preserved. Twenty-six homes were sold in the first four days.
The development was launched with a threefold marketing campaign that utilizes the published toolkit and incentives from local organizations like Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (SMUD) to encourage development.
The development is mixed income and updates the “housing trust ordinance” and “new fee deferral ordinances”. In addition to market rate housing, affordable housing units are projected to reduce the city’s homeless population to half its current level by 2025.
The development plan received support from Downtown Sacramento partnership, Sacramento housing alliance, Sacramento Women’s Council.
The City also addressed its deficit from funding post-employment benefits, retirement benefits, for city employees. Developers discussed four strategies to end the deficit and stop incurring debt as an unfunded liability.
Current city post-employment benefits are a modest $300 month, but this unfunded liability is causing a deficit in the city budget. With dependents employees are offered $365 and 522 Firefighters, with the lowest medical and highest dental $774. This is a reasonable incentive in addition to social security and private retirement plans.
The Department of Finance offered four options to reduce benefits to a level that would eliminate or reduce the deficit. Benefits for current employees and contracts with the Fire Department will be honored but new employees will be affected by the changes.
One option was to limit benefits to $1000 per year that is transferred to a savings fund for the employees reducing the liability by $202 million. Another was a reduction tier offering 100% benefits to employees over 65, 50% reduction to those over 60, and eliminates future benefits. A third option reduces Medicare by 50% and asks for matching employee contributions to bridge the gap. The fourth option was to eliminate future benefits saving almost $300 million.
The city is managing a current $432 million unfunded liability from post-employment benefits. City council sent it to the budget, audit committee meeting to study the long-term fiscal impact, and is considering the options of the proposal.
Sacramento Steps Forward proposed a plan to reduce homelessness in Sacramento. The proposal asks the city for $500,000 in funding in addition to the county funds they received earlier this year.
The majority of funding, $18 million, is from federal HUD funds, Sacramento Steps Forward manages $12 million. Directors reported that homeless resources are not accessible, one has to seek them out. There is a significant number of homeless people in Sacramento.
The plan is increasing outreach to the homeless in hospitals, along the rivers, regional transit, and mental health facilities. They have increased the previous three-outreach employees to a team of outreach workers. They plan to complete their, “Housing First” plan by 2021.
Current project partners include; Genesis and Loaves and fishes. They plan to increase outreach providers through; field doctors and nurses, youth centers, law enforcement, and city and park rangers. Community and coalition engagement are facilitated through monthly law enforcement meetings and monthly meetings with the integrated outreach team.
Current major developments, such as the multi-million dollar Golden One arena and the Major League Soccer Stadium, increasing the demand for housing in the downtown area. Developers are using a mixed income housing strategy to keep housing rates reasonable. In addition to the arena, the city has approved a sign district along surrounding streets and secured an eight million dollar sculpture from New York artist Jeff Koons (SacBee, 2015).