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                                        City Heights:
                          A Rehabilitative Plan for Homeownership

                                           Sarah Hu
                                       February 22, 2011

                                   Senior Research Project
                          Submitted in Partial Satisfaction of a BA in
                                Urban Studies and Planning,
                             University of California, San Diego


Homeownership not only contributes to the stability of a neighborhood but also, provides
residents with a financial stake in the city. Under the City Heights Redevelopment Plan enacted
in 1992, the Redevelopment Agency for the City of San Diego recognized that there was a high
incidence of overall residential transience rate and low homeowner occupancy in the community
of City Heights. Therefore, the redevelopment agency made it their highest priority to increase
homeownership by establishing programs that enable housing opportunities for low-income and
displaced residents. This study examined the repercussions such programs have on prospective
homebuyers and whether the redevelopment agency has sufficiently carried out their goal of
increasing homeownership in the community of City Heights. Using Geographic Information
Systems mapping, I was able to compare homeowner occupancy rates before the Redevelopment
Plan was enacted to current standing. Withstanding literature denotes that homeownership
assistance programs, in actuality, pose major implications for low-income buyers. Others
contend that loan agencies should focus on providing affordable housing while attracting middle
class residents. Furthermore, opposing arguments contend that redevelop agencies should focus
on development-oriented approaches as well as, consumer choice when addressing issues of
homeownership occupancy.

Key Terms: Homeownership, Redevelopment, Redevelopment Agency, City Heights, and
Homeownership Loan Programs


       “Housing is the glue that binds communities, the guarantor for urban vitality” (Partners

for Livable Communities, 2000). As of 1992, the Redevelopment Agency in San Diego,

California evaluated the growing deterioration in the community of City Heights and sought to

create a plan that would revive the once vibrant, working class community. Outlined in the

redevelopment plan, the Redevelopment Agency established a list of objectives that were to be

carried out beginning in 2009 and completed in 2033. Among these goals and objectives were to:

integrate commercial and mixed use, provide affordable and market-rate developments and

rehabilitation, and establish amenities such as transportation facilities and recreation and service

centers. Furthermore, the redevelopment agency made it their highest priority to increase

homeowner occupancy in the community of City Heights. To do this, the Redevelopment

Agency not only constructed modern housing facilities but also, established homebuyer

assistance programs. Loan programs such as, “Home in the Heights,” have been successful at

issuing loans to over 98 households worth $2.79 million in agency funds. Homeowner assistance

programs do more than grant participants with a place of residence but also, enable them to

establish a financial stake in the city. In addition, homeowner loan programs have positively

stabilized communities as well as provided security.

       Homeownership is essential to a thriving community. According to The Partners of

Livable Communities, homeownership creates a safe and stable neighborhood. Homeownership,

in turn, enables residents with the motivation to maintain the property and also, deter crime

(Partners for Livable Communities, 2000). Further, homeownership occupancy not only creates

stability but also, inadvertently enables familiarity in the community, responsible

homeownership, and pride in one’s property. Because of homeownership, residents are more

inclined to becoming familiar with their permanent surroundings, which in turn creates public

characters, replacing anonymity with community. In addition, having a financial stake, owners

feel obligated to maintain the beautification of their property. Properties that were once marked

with distress and deterioration are now occupied and well maintained. Homeownership provides

residents with a place that they can call their own. Moreover, homeownership mediates

residential problems and also, has the latent affect of procuring commercial and social issues.

Communities that partake in such homeownership loan programs are more diverse; yield more

public characters, which in turn, creates a greater functionality, vibrancy, and economy. In

addition, there is a higher demand for local amenities such as grocery stores, jobs, and recreation


       City Heights began as a community that catered largely to the working class community

since it’s inception in 1923. City Heights has since provided a hub for newly incoming

immigrants, which has attributed much of the diverse character of the neighborhood. However,

recent findings have proved that the neighborhood of City Heights suffers from major

deterioration and poor maintenance. In addition, City Heights had one of the lowest

homeownership occupancy rates compared to neighboring regions. Therefore, the redevelopment

agency of San Diego has taken it upon their hands to comprise a redevelopment plan, specifically

focusing on rehabilitation and increasing homeownership through public assistance programs.

This research project identifies the progress the Redevelopment Agency has made to increase

homeownership. Using Geographic Information Systems, I have delineated changes in

homeownership patterns prior to the redevelopment plan was enacted and its current standings,

according to Census data. In addition, I have incorporated scholarly literature to support the

importance of homeownership in the vitality of an urban neighborhood. In addition, such

literature has emphasized the importance of providing affordable housing in addition to,

attracting middle-class residents to improve urban quality.

       Programs such as these have been successful at providing loans to prospective

homeowners who would not otherwise have the opportunity to own their own home. The main

objective of this research project is to critically examine the City Heights main objectives, which

is to increase homeownership occupancy in the community of City Heights. This study aims to

examine how successful the “Home in the Heights” Program was implemented based on GIS

mapping. In addition, this study has explored some of the benefits as well as, disadvantages

homeownership loan programs have had on participants as well as the overall community.

Increasing homeownership occupancy for low to moderate-income households cannot be

addressed alone to improve neighborhood conditions. Varady states that, improvements in inner-

city areas are a result of housing strategies involving assistance to middle, moderate, and lower-

income households. Such strategies not only contribute to the vitality of an inner-city community

but also, diminish the cycle of poverty by intermingling households from different backgrounds

(Varady, 1995).

Literature Review

       The Partners for Livable Communities, in The Livable City denotes that, “Housing is the

glue that binds communities, the guarantor of urban vitality” (The Partners for Livable

Communities, 2000). Physical attributes of a neighborhood, such as housing, provide hubs for

community, familiarity, and a sense of place and belonging. The Partners for Livable

Communities continue that, homeownership, unlike any other type of occupancy provides

owners with a sense of responsibility, financial stake, and security (2000). Homeowners are

likely to have a greater sense of care and responsibility towards their residents because it is a

place they can call their own. Moreover, renting property can become quite sporadic; however,

homeownership, in regards to the “Home In The Heights” home loan program, succinctly states

that the participant must maintain and occupy the property as their primary place of residence

(HITH Project Guidelines). While the redevelopment agency’s intention is to ensure that the loan

is going directly towards the property, it consequentially has a greater social impact. The

Redevelopment Agency has designed the program so that after twenty years the loan interests is

not only decreased but also, completely forgiven.

       The “Home in the Heights” homebuyer loan program is designed to provide first-time

homebuyers with an opportunity that they would not be granted otherwise. Particularly

households that have been displaced during the redevelopment project have priority in the

program. Eligible participants are granted up to a minimum of $5,000 and a maximum $30,000

in loans towards the purchase of a home in the project area (HITH Program Guidelines). Once

accepted, it is the participant’s responsibility to provide a minimum down payment of 3% of the

total purchase price of the home, attend responsible homeownership classes, and use the property

as their primary residence. San Diego Council member for the District of City Heights, Tony

Atkins, states that, “using redevelopment tax revenue is a great way to help working families buy

their first home. Using these funds to support homeownership and first-time homebuyers really

strengthens existing neighborhoods” (La Prensa, 2002). Furthermore, the loan program is

designed for a 30-year term at a fixed interest, under the most favorable terms so that the loan is

completely forgiven after 20 years (City Heights Fact Sheet, 2006).

       Daniel J. Monti in Race, Redevelopment, and the New Company Town believes that cities

cannot be built to accommodate the rich and the poor. Monti denotes that redeveloping

communities have made strong efforts to exclude minorities once the area is improved (Monti,

1990). Furthermore, Monti believes that the only way a community can thrive is if it is

predominantly pluralistic; however, David P. Varady in Selling Cities would counter argue that

the blending of families in a given neighborhood not only unravels the “cycle of poverty” but

also, provides examples that low-income residents can look up to (Varady, 1995). Varady

continues that there needs to be a balance between attracting middle class families while

assisting lower and moderate income families. Monti notes that in some cases, segregation is

better for a thriving community (1990). Monti believes that, integration is not crucial to the

future of a community and people adapt better living in communities where the residents are

similar to themselves. Monti states that pluralistic communities create, “small communities

within which people not only feel better about themselves but also act together to promote their

own political and economic interests” (Monti, 1990). However, mixed-income neighborhoods

not only stabilize property values but also, sequentially replace images of deterioration with

well-maintained buildings and landscaping (The Partners for Livable Communities, 2000).

       Monti contends that communities that have undergone redevelopment have promoted

predominantly pluralistic communities, while Varady rebuttals that successful homeownership

loan programs should address various income levels. Varady continues that, attracting residents

by providing incentives to middle-class families is essential to the revitalization of a community

(Varady, 1995). Strategies to integrate neighborhoods include ensuring quality public schools,

creating a strong neighborhood base, providing financial incentives, and proactive marketing and

public relations. However, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Urban

Homesteading Demonstration neighborhoods found that public services did not play an integral

role in encouraging and holding middle-income residents in declining neighborhoods (Varady,

1995). Furthermore, Monti insists racial and social integration is not necessary for the future

viability of a city (Monti, 1990). John Kromer in Neighborhood Recovery believes that, a city-

subsidized homeownership loan program does little to increase the net population. In actuality, a

“reshuffling of the same desk of cards” (Kromer, 2000) effect will occur by which, families will

tend to move out of their current neighborhood into a new, redeveloped neighborhood.

Households are migrating from one neighborhood to the next; however, they are not generating

any comprehensive net increase.

       Opponents of homebuyer assistance programs argue that the programs that are

implemented rarely, if ever, filter down the poor. The cities make efforts to work with private

developers, which most often hurt the poor through direct or indirect displacement. In addition,

there are major patterns of gentrification and relocation from increasing property values (Varady,

1995). Moreover, The Partners for Livable Communities denote that mixing class and social

structures stabilizes neighborhoods (2000). However, Varady contends that, improved public

services were not successful at holding middle-income residents in deteriorating neighborhoods

(Varady, 1995). Varady supports his findings with research studies that have proven that

“government housing programs having a limited stabilizing effect” (Varady, 1995).

       Under the California Health and Safety Code Section 33334.6, the "provision of housing

is itself a fundamental purpose of the Community Redevelopment Law and that a general

inadequate statewide supply of decent, safe, and sanitary housing affordable to persons and

families of low or moderate income threatens the accomplishment of the primary purposes of the

Community Redevelopment Law, including job creation, attracting new private investments, and

creating physical, economic, social and environmental conditions to remove and prevent the

recurrence of blight" (Affordable Housing). Residential stability and an increase in local housing

stock is just one of the latent consequences homeownership has on the community. In the

broader context, homeownership affects all entities of an area, including commercial businesses,

school districts, and tax generation and distribution. Varady denotes that homeowners that are

promoted through federal tax and policies have stronger residential commitments to their area

than renters (Varady, 1995). Homeowners have a sense of obligation to maintain their financial

stake as opposed to renters who have temporary residence in an area. Furthermore, maintenance

of the household is ultimately the responsibility of the homeowner, which puts renters in a less in

integral position with their property.

        Withstanding literature in the related field has proved that homeownership occupancy is

an essential component to the redevelopment of declining communities. Moreover,

redevelopment plans should succumb to consumer choice loan programs rather than

development oriented infrastructure. Redevelopment should be steered towards granting

prospective homebuyers with the independence to choose their own dwellings. Kromer and

Varady contests that Redevelopment Agencies should establish programs that not only provide

assistance to lower and moderate income families but also, provide economic and/or federal tax

incentives towards middle income households. Communities of this magnitude are known to be

more diverse, stabilized, and safer. City Heights, “Home in the Heights,” first time homebuyer

assistance program is available to low and moderate-income homebuyers; however, it fails to

provide assistance to continuing homebuyers and middle-income households. With the right

incentives, middle-income buyers could prospectively have the financial means to transform a

deteriorating neighborhood to one that exemplifies vitality, beautification, and pride.

Research Strategy

       This research project is focused on a particular case study conducted in City Heights, San

Diego. After examining the growing deterioration in City Heights, the Redevelopment Agency of

San Diego deemed it a redevelopment area and sought to create a plan that would not only

improve blighted conditions but also, improve the built and social structure so that the

community was appealing to neighboring residents. The community of City Heights is

particularly interesting because it was established as a working class community catering largely

to newly incoming immigrants. City Heights established a hub for new residents seeking to

achieve the American Dream, which attributes much of the community’s diverse character. City

Heights encompasses 1,945 acres of land that is bounded by Home and Euclid Avenue and 54th

street to the east and Meade and Monroe avenues in the north. The total population is 80,391;

with median household income of $25,711 and the total housing units are 23,466 (City Heights

Redevelopment). City Heights, in particular, is a unique case study because it was declared

economically and physically blighted in 1992. Since then, extreme measures have been enacted

to mediate such detriments, including the redevelopment plan. I have chosen to use the case

study of City Heights as my primary research strategy because it allows me to confine my

research towards a narrow focal point.

         The advantage to using case studies as my primary research strategy is that I can narrow

my research to one specific entity. Bringing in multiple sources could potentially cause

confusion for readers and also, distract readers from the real concerning issue. Moreover, I have

used the case study of the Redevelopment Plan in City Heights because it is a project that has

received great praise, as well as, criticism. It is because of the Redevelopment Plan that City

Heights has been able to successfully transform the once blighted community into a thriving,

vivant, and civically beautiful community. All in all, City Heights has been able establish itself

as a prime example that has undertaken and successfully carried out redevelopment. The

disadvantage to using one case study as my primary research strategy is that City Heights is only

one minute example in a mature, withstanding field. In addition, using one case study can be

subject to major biases; therefore, it was essential to incorporate other research strategies into my

study. For instance, I have provided a GIS map to visually exemplify the homeownership

occupancy rates within the City Heights Redevelopment area. Also, City Heights may be a new

and developing project; however, archival research proves that redevelopment is a longstanding

entity that arose post of the industrial revolution. Withstanding literature proves that

redevelopment can be quite controversial and can impose major repercussions on blighted

neighborhoods, for better and worse.

       Using such research strategies, I was able to delineate my own findings on how

redevelopment plans can be successfully implemented. The second research strategy is to use

GIS mapping to pin point areas under the City Heights redevelopment jurisdiction. In doing so, I

have proved that there is a spatial relationship between the land area and homeownership

occupancy rates. One of the redevelopment agencies key objectives is to increase

homeownership occupancy rates. Using GIS mapping, I have sufficiently exemplified if

homeownership occupancy rates have indeed, increased or decreased. The advantage to using

GIS mapping is that I can visually portray an entity that cannot be expressed in written form.

Furthermore, GIS mapping can delineate patterns and discrepancies in the City Heights

Redevelopment area. Personalized GIS mapping of City Heights have proved that there is a

negative correlation between homeownership loan programs and increasing homeownership

occupancy rates in City Heights. It seems that since the Redevelopment Plan and “Home in the

Heights” Program was enacted, little improvements have been made in increasing homeowner

occupancy rates. In actuality, homeownership occupancy rates have decreased in the community

of City Heights since the Redevelopment Plan was enacted.

       The City Heights Redevelopment Project could not be made possible without referencing

withstanding scholarly literature. City Heights may be a current and developing project;

however, its plan, construction, and implementation are a reflection of withstanding literature.

Furthermore, scholarly literature has the advantage of providing insight to a topic that is not well

known or studied. The disadvantage to archival research is that it does not provide specific data

on the City Heights Redevelopment Plan. However, it does offer insight to comparable projects

that have been completed. Such research can be used towards current redevelopment projects so

that they avoid the mistakes of prior projects.

Findings and Analysis

       In 1992, the Redevelopment Agency of San Diego made it their highest priority to

mediate the growing deterioration in the community of City Heights by establishing a

redevelopment plan that would not only address the physical blight but also, acknowledge the

prevailing social and economic problems. One of the main objectives of the redevelopment plan

was to increase homeownership. In doing so, the Redevelopment Agency has established

homeownership loan programs such as, “Home in the Heights,” which directly benefits first

time, low to moderate-income homebuyers. Nicolas Paul Retsinas in Low-Income

Homeownership: Examining the Unexamined Goal denotes that homeownership can establish

economic status, a greater sense of attachment to dwellings, and more freedom. Furthermore,

homeownership not only mediates discrepancies of housing stock and occupancy rates but also

in turn, has a direct benefit on neighborhood safety, civic beautification, and commercial areas

(Retsinas, 2002). Though the Redevelopment Agency has made efforts to increase

homeownership in the community of City Heights by establishing loan programs, GIS mapping

has proved that renting continues to be a dominant form of occupancy.

       Using GIS can delineate the spatiality of homeownership and renter rates in the

community of City Heights. The GIS data used here not only visually portrays homeownership

and rental rates from the census data in 1990 but also, can be used to compare homeownership

and rental rates in regards to the census data in 2000. Moreover, homeownership and rental rates

can be compared to one another to see which holds precedence. The objective of the

redevelopment plan is to increase homeownership rates in the community of City Heights.

Furthermore, the census data from 1990 is of particular interests because it represents the area

prior to the redevelopment plan. In contrast, the 2000 census data exemplifies changes that were

made after the redevelopment plan was enacted. Although one of the stated goals of the

redevelopment plan was to increase homeownership rates in the redevelopment area of City

Heights, GIS has proven that redevelopment has failed to mediate the problem. Moreover, renter

rates have actually decreased in 2000 since 1990; however, in conjunction with decreasing

homeownership rates.

        Figure 1 displays the homeownership distribution according to the census data from

1990. While there seems to be no apparent patterns, it is obvious that homeownership rates are

much more dense in the central business district of City Heights and less dense on the perimeter.

Overall, homeownership rates in City Heights during the 1990 Census were 3,245 households. In

contrasts, we see that in the Census data recorded in 2000 the homeownership rates decreased

even after the redevelopment plan was enacted. In Figure 2, it is apparent that homeownership

rates are much more sparse than homeownership rates recorded in 1990. According to the

Census recorded in 2000, homeownership rates actually decreased to 2,272 households

compared to the 3,345 that were recorded in 1990. Since 1990, homeownership rates in City

Heights have failed to increase as the Redevelopment Agency had intended and in actuality, have


        In comparison, using the same Census data, GIS has delineated rental rates in the City

Heights area. In both tables, it seems that rental rates have remained fairly consistent from the

1990 Census to the 2000 Census. In

Figure 3, it is apparent that rental

occupancies encompass a large

portion of City Heights.

Furthermore, 1990 Census data has

concluded that rental rates are

quadruple the amount of

homeownership rates, standing at

13,765. While current Census data

has proved that the rental population has decreased, the results are not significant. Figure 3,

proves that majority of residence in City Heights was occupied by renters. Only homeowners

occupied one-fourth of the City Heights community, whereas, the remaining was renters.

Moreover, Figure 1 and 2 could be partially skewed considering that the Census fails to account

for homeowners that have leased out their residence to renters. In addition, the dot density map

plotted in figure 3 is a representation of renters leasing from homeowners, renters living in

apartments, as well as, renters in affordable housing units.

       In comparison, Figure 4 is a representation of renter rates in City Heights according to the

                                                         Census data recorded in 2000. It is

                                                         obvious in Figure 4, that there have been

                                                         no significant changes in the rental

                                                         patterns since 1990. Statistics has

                                                         supported this finding, tallying rental

                                                         rates at 13,451 in 2000. Rental rates

                                                         have decreased in City Heights;

                                                         however, the results are not substantial

                                                         enough to assume that is a direct result

of the Redevelopment Plan. According to John Kromer in Neighborhood Recovery, “no

significant net population gain will occur as the result of city-subsidized ventures producing

hundreds of new homes” (Kromer, 2000). Families will move from one neighborhood to another;

however, “the whole endeavor amounts to a big reshuffling of the same deck of cards” (Kromer,

2000). Redevelopment is supposed to generate residents; however, it seems that City Heights has

experienced a downfall in homeownership rates, as well as, renter rates.

       In 1992, the Redevelopment Agency analyzed the growing deterioration in the City

Heights community and sought to create a plan that would encompass a variety of commercial,

residential, and mixed-use initiatives. Particularly, the Redevelopment Agency focused on

increasing homeownership, realizing that such an entity would play a stringent role in

revitalizing the physical, social, and economical entities. The Redevelopment Agency created a

plan that would both exemplify, what Kromer denotes as, the development-oriented and

consumer choice approach. Kromer continues that both approaches must be enacted, for one

“provide the opportunity for people to purchase housing produced within city support” (Kromer,

2000) while the other, grants buyers the flexibility to choose the housing type and location. City

Heights not only embodied the development-oriented approach by creating establishments that

would provide low, moderate, and elderly housing but also, enabled consumer choice by creating

homeownership loan programs.

       The “Home in the Heights” program allows first-time homebuyers who would not

otherwise have the opportunity to purchase a home the means to establish a financial stake

within the City Heights redevelopment area. As a subsequent result of the Redevelopment Plan,

the “Home in the Heights” program was established to assist residents that were displaced during

redevelopment. In addition, the redevelopment agency prospected that increasing

homeownership would consequentially establish neighborhood stability and improve the local

housing stock. Using city-funds, “Home in the Heights” would provide “silent-second mortgages

of up to $30,000 per property to qualified borrowers purchasing a home for the first time within

the City Heights Redevelopment Project Area” (“Home in the Heights” Fact Sheet, 2006). All

residents that had a household income of less than 100% of the San Diego Region median

income were eligible for the program; however, priority was given to those that were displaced

during the redevelopment projects. In addition, participants were required to attend

homeownership classes that educate them on the responsibilities of mortgage debt service and

homeownership (Program Guidelines, 2011).

       Though “Home in the Heights” was intended to increase homeownership occupancy as a

necessity to improve neighborhood stability, encourage private investment, and improve the

local housing stock. As of 2010, the Redevelopment Agency has distributed 98 loans worth

$2.79 million in agency funds (City Heights Fact Sheet, 2006). Physical, economical, and social

improvements have been made in the City Heights redevelopment area; however, the results

have not been substantial enough to completely transform City Heights. In addition, City Heights

continues to exemplify one of the lowest homeownership occupancy rates compared to

neighboring San Diego communities. If City Heights is going to successfully establish itself as a

redevelopment area, the Redevelopment Agency needs to adopt a plan that not only addresses

low to moderate-income households through a development oriented approach but also,

considers middle-income residents as a means to stabilize a given area. Varady denotes that

programs and policies need to be structured to encourage middle class homeownership by

providing incentives. Moreover, homeowners that are promoted by federal tax and policies have

stronger residential commitment to the area than renters, which in turn strengthens the social

fabric (Varady, 1995).

       The Redevelopment Agency has focused on development-oriented strategies to solving

the growing deterioration and degradation in City Heights. Since the Redevelopment Plan was

enacted in 1992, the Redevelopment Agency has donated a great portion of their funding to new

commercial and residential developments. For instance, in 2006, the $18.6 million Talmadge

Senior Village was constructed to provide affordable housing to San Diego’s senior citizens

(City Heights Redevelopment Project). Talmadge Senior Village not only replaced a

deteriorating motel but also, provides housing at rents affordable to very low-income senior

citizens. Talmadge Senior Village is an example of what Kromer denotes as the, development-

oriented approach to Redevelopment. The development-oriented approaches have significantly

improved the beautification of the community; however, Kromer would argue that such

measures must coincide with consumer choice approaches. This includes, providing economic

incentives so that households have the flexibility to choose their most fitting dwellings rather

than be given a limited choice in a new development.

       While low to moderate-income households should be the priority in redevelopment, it is

important to provide incentives to middle-income families as well. Attracting middle-income

households could in turn, unravel the cycle of poverty by providing examples that low-income

residents can look up to. In addition, with the help of federal incentives, middle-income families

will have the means to maintain their property from deterioration. City Heights needs to adopt a

policy that provides services to low-moderate income families while, attracting middle-income

residents. For instance, Cleveland, Ohio adopted the Cleveland Ohio Action to Support Housing

program in 1978. The program was designed to provide direct low-interest rate loans for low,

moderate and middle-income prospective homebuyers. In addition, CASH partnered with local

Cleveland banks to “offers below market-rate rehabilitation and new construction loans”

(Varady, 1995). CASH is successful in part because anyone is eligible, regardless of his or her

income. In addition, low-income families are still a priority; however, the new development is

not disproportionately targeted at poor people. Cleveland’s approach to redevelopment provides

opportunities to low-income households without making them feel incompetent, inferior, or


       Attracting middle-income households though tax abatements, below market-rate

mortgages, and other types of financial incentives has had substantial effects on declining

neighborhoods. Middle-income homeownership loan programs have been criticized for

disregarding those in actual need of financial assistance. However, withstanding examples have

proved that using middle-income households, as an approach to remove blight has been much

more successful than programs that have specifically targeted low-income households. Such

programs continue to assist low-income households while, contributing to the citywide viability.

Middle-income homeownership loan programs create a stronger tax base, stabilize the

population, provide hubs for social diversity, increase housing production, and create an influx of

jobs. Furthermore, local or state funding that is separate from the funding for low-income

housing programs finances middle-income programs. Above all, middle-income programs are

not only beneficial to the redevelopment area but also; contribute to the greater good of the city.

       The Redevelopment Plan for City Heights has been successful at incorporating both

development-oriented and consumer choice approaches to concurring blight. However, they need

to broaden their scope to prioritize consumer choice approaches. “Home in the Heights,” is the

only program established under the Redevelopment Plan to provide residents with the means to

purchasing their own home. Furthermore, it is geared specifically to those who are first-time

homebuyers as well as, those that have been displaced during redevelopment. In 2010, the

“Home in the Heights” issued 98 loans worth $2.79 million in agency funds. Though the

program was established 2001, the funding reserved for the “Home in the Heights,” program is

less than 20% of the funds that was used towards the building of the Talmadge Senior Village.

The Redevelopment Agency has prioritized development-oriented approaches to redevelopment

rather than consumer choice. If the “Home in the Heights” program had comparable funds to the

Talmadge Senior Village Project, City Heights would be able to reach out to a much wider range

of prospective homebuyers.


       I opened this senior research project with a quote from the Partners of a Livable

Community stating that, “housing is the glue that binds communities, the guarantor for urban

vitality” (Partners for Livable Communities, 2000). Without strong residential areas, substantial

homeownership occupancy rates, and a dedicated political and marketing structure, the

community will cease to exist. The purpose of this research project was to critically analyze the

Redevelopment Plan established in 1992 for the Community of City Heights. Examining the

growing deterioration in the community of City Heights, the Redevelopment Agency of San

Diego sought to create a plan that would not only address issues of blight but also, strengthen the

residential, commercial, and political structure. One of the objectives outlined in the City Heights

Redevelopment Plan was to increase homeownership by constructing affordable housing units as

well as, first-time homebuyer loan programs. Prior to the Redevelopment Plan, City Heights

exemplified one of the lowest homeownership rates in the San Diego region. Establishing a solid

homebuyer program would in theory, improve existing housing while preserving the single-

family neighborhood structure. In addition, homeownership would balance the distribution of

housing opportunities to accommodate all income levels. Lastly, homebuyer programs would

provide participants with a financial stake in the community; hence, a place to call their own.

       The second part of the research project was to determine if homeownership rates in City

Heights have increased since the redevelopment plan was established in 1992. Through

Geographic Information System mapping, I concluded that homeownership rates in actuality did

not increase even after the redevelopment plan was established in City Heights. As exemplified

in Figure 1, homeownership was at a high of 3,245 prior to the redevelopment according to the

1990 Census. In comparison, Figure 2 exemplifies how homeownership rates dropped to 2,272

according to the 2000 Census. Though the goal of the redevelopment plan was to increase

homeownership rates in the community of City Heights, the maps prove that homeownership

rates have actually decreased. Likewise, declining homeownership rates have been followed by

declining rental rates. This pattern exemplifies what Kromer denotes as, “a big reshuffling of the

same deck” (Kromer, 2000). Residents are moving from older neighborhoods to newer,

redeveloped ones; however, the net total of residents is not increasing. City Heights high

transience rate proves that residents are more inclined to rent rather than buy in the community

of City Heights.

       The City Heights Redevelopment Project continues to be a work in progress. Solutions

must be carried out in full force and changes can only be made through experience. Not every

Redevelopment Project is the same, which means that means the same solutions cannot be

applied to every comment. Therefore, a series of trial and error is necessary to determine what is

successful and what is not. This research project is of particular importance because it provides

insight on an entity that has not been studied yet, continues to go through adaptive changes, and

is largely open for suggestion. The irrefutable subject of the matter is the community and what

better way to determine what the community needs from a member of the community. It takes an

outside source looking in to determine the progress, drawbacks, and successes of a given project.

The implications of this research project are that new findings that were not otherwise

broadcasted are now coming into light. Furthermore, knowing that little has been done to

increase homeownership in the community of City Heights puts the responsibility back onto the

Redevelopment Agency. The agency has failed to fulfill their goal of increasing homeownership

in the timeframe that they announced they would. Therefore, it is their responsibility to take an

even more integral role in developing solutions to mediate the problem. Without a substantial

homeownership base, the overall stability of the community will falter tremendously. After all, it

is in the immediate vicinity of the home that residents eat, play, and work.

       Though it is apparent that homeownership rates have failed to increase in the community

of City Heights, reasons for such figures remain unanswered. The redevelopment agency has

donated considerable fund towards first-time homebuyer programs such as, “Home in the

Heights;” however, it is only a fraction of what they have spent on new developments. In

addition, it has only reached out to a small portion of residents. Reasons for this could include

the stringent qualifications for the homebuyer program. Participants must be first-time

homebuyers, are limited to housing within the project area, and must adhere to a certain income.

In addition, priority went to those who had been displaced during the redevelopment project.

Moreover, renting continues to be the desired form of occupancy in City Heights. Residents

prefer renting to owning because there is less of a commitment, responsibility, and more

flexibility. Arriving at a solution to increasing homeownership in City Heights is difficult when

such questions remain unanswered. Knowing the findings, further research should be steered

towards finding the root of the problem and determining a plausible solution.

       The Redevelopment Plan for City Heights will be effective until May 11, 2033, which

means that there is still plenty of time to perfect the kinks. Because City Heights is still in the

initial phases of redevelopment, there is still plenty of time for improvements to be made. Aside

from determining why homeownership occupancy has not increased since the redevelopment

plan was adopted, it will be interesting to analyze the area under the same criteria when the

project is completed. An agenda for further study could be to reexamine the Census data every

ten years and follow the progress of City Heights homeownership initiative. The result of City

Heights homeownership initiative can only be determined once the project is completed in 2033.


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