Encinitas to negotiate land deal with Habitat for Humanity

A piece of city-owned property on the corner of Urania Avenue and Leucadia Boulevard could become the site of two homes for low-income residents, courtesy of Habitat for Humanity.

The City Council voted 4-1 to enter into negotiations with the San Diego Habitat for Humanity chapter to build the homes — and potentially two “granny flats” on two city-owned parcels.  Councilman Mark Muir cast the lone vote against the proposal.

The balance of the council said that the project would help the city in its goal of filling its dearth of affordable housing.

“This is the perfect opportunity for this piece of land,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said. “We don’t have a lot of opportunities to develop affordable housing because we don’t own a lot of land.”

Under the arrangement, the city would lease the property for Habitat for Humanity for a 55-year term. Habitat would build two homes and sell the homes to current Encinitas residents who earn between 50 and 80 percent of the median income, or about $70,000 for a family of four.

Habitat would provide the families with a zero-percent interest, $250,000 mortgage and the family would make a down payment in the form of 500 hours of sweat equity on their home or another Habitat project.

Habitat Executive Director Lori Holt Pfeiler, who approached the city with the idea, said that she felt the project would be a win-win for Encinitas — which currently is under fire for not adequately addressing its state-mandated affordable housing goals — and the low-income residents, who would have a chance to build wealth.

“I learned when people have a home of their own, they lead better lives,” Holt Pfeiler said.

The city previously leased the half-acre property to Specimen House, which operated a greenhouse on the corner. But the company sold its greenhouse property to Shea Homes, which is proposing a 13-home subdivision on it and the sliver of land reverted back to the city.

Muir, who expressed his appreciation to Holt Pfeiler for the proposal, said he couldn’t support it because he felt the land should be used for open space preservation.

“All we hear about is open space, and I think that every opportunity that we have to acquire open space or make a pocket park, we should be taking advantage,” Muir said.

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