Recap of Assembly Budget Subcommittee Hearing on Affordable Housing

March 9, 2016 –

D3R_6199-California-State-Senate-Chamber

On March 9th, 2016, the day before the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing held a hearing on “Innovative Solutions to Build Affordable Housing” (view recording, agenda, and handouts here), Assembly Budget Subcommittee #4 held a “Discussion of Affordable Housing in California.” While the first part of the hearing covers HCD’s budget, the discussion begins at about 70 minutes into the recording.

At that point, you will hear Brian Uhler, the author of the Legislative Analyst’s Office’s recent controversial report entitled “Perspectives on Helping Low-Income Californians Afford Housing,” talk through his findings. Mr. Uhler makes several points we can all agree with:

California has a severe shortage of housing and has not been meeting its housing need for many years. This shortage is particularly acute in the State’s coastal communities, where starting in the 1970s, home prices and rental rates began to increase significantly in comparison with other parts of the State and nation.

– This has impacted housing affordability, with 1.5 million rent burdened households who spend more than 50% of their income on housing costs.
– The solutions aren’t easy. The State needs to address policies and laws that reward cities for promoting commercial and industrial uses over housing and that allow those opposed to housing to stop positive housing developments to move forward.
– The State needs to have a serious conversation about the role it needs to play in affordable housing.

We also can agree that it would take considerable resources to address the needs of all 1.5 million households. However, we disagree that it is not important to do all that we can to respond — both to increase production overall, which we concur will moderate price increases, and to subsidize housing for those that the market will never reach.

Matt Schwartz, President & CEO of the California Housing Partnership Corporation, spoke to the solutions, focusing on the need to leverage federal dollars. According to Mr. Schwartz, $3-4 billion in federal Tax Exempt Tax Exempt bond authority is going unused each year. The State needs to provide gap funding to leverage these dollars: $67K in State funds will leverage $120-150K in federal funds.

Mr. Schwartz also made the following points:

– California’s housing profile is changing– from 2005 to 2014, the State gained 875K renter households and lost 214K owner households.
– The State’s affordable housing funding has declined 66.5% since 2008—over $1.7 billion dollars.
– While supply will help moderate, or even slightly decrease prices, it isn’t the answer to the rent burden faced by lower income—or even for many moderate income—households.
– The short-term solution is to: fund the State’s Multi-Family Housing Program– $1 billion, which would create 12K new homes, expand the State Low Income Housing Tax Credit, and make the Tax Credit more effective.
The long-term solution is a permanent source of funding for affordable housing.

San Jose: GP Task Force Considers Urban Village and Housing Policies

February 29, 2016 –
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Photo Credit: City of San Jose

On Thursday, February 25th, the 43 San Jose General Plan Task Force members, appointed by the City Council, considered staff’s recommended changes to the General Plan policies related to Urban Villages and Affordable Housing. Given the breadth of the discussion in a limited amount of time, the Task Force was unable to deliberate on any of the recommended affordable housing policies and deferred recommendations to the next meeting.

We thank the Housing Department staff for their thorough analysis and thoughtful recommendations that balance the City’s desire for more jobs with its existing and future housing needs. Staff-recommended policies that benefit affordable housing are discussed in more detail below.

We also thank staff from both the Planning and Housing Departments for incorporating some of the recommendations provided by the nonprofit development community through SV@Home’s coalition letter. However, there are a number of provisions in the proposed recommendations that may make future affordable housing development more challenging or unfeasible. We look forward to working with City Staff and the Task Force members to ensuring that the affordable housing policies ultimately reflected in the General Plan deliver the intended results. Please mark your calendars and join us at the next Task Force meeting on Thursday, March 24th at 6:30 PM.

Housing Context. According to data presented by the City’s Housing Department, San Jose continues to be severely unaffordable with escalating housing costs outpacing median wages at a ratio of 7.6. Following last month’s discussion about San Jose’s jobs-to-employed-residents goals, lasts night’s conversation focused on the housing needs of the City’s workers and residents.

Urban Villages are planning areas that are intended to be walkable and bikeable mixed-use and transit-oriented urban areas. In total, San Jose has 68 areas designated as Urban Villages, each with its own allocation of planned job and housing growth. Each Urban Village falls into one of three “Horizons”, each with different development timelines. Only Urban Villages included in Horizon 1 are allowed to move forward with allocated growth. However, when meeting certain criteria, projects that are catalytic in nature – called “Signature Projects” – are able to move forward regardless of Horizon designation.

Staff from San Jose’s Planning Department presented their recommended revisions to the General Plan policies affecting Urban Villages. Given the breadth of the proposed revisions that were discussed last night, Task Force members took the following action on proposed Urban Village policies:

Urban Village Planning Process (IP-5.3) – Passed unanimously.
Signature Project Commercial FAR of 0.35 (IP-5.12(2)) – Deferred.
Signature Project Commercial Requirement for positive fiscal impact (IP-5.12(9)) – Deferred.

Affordable Housing Policies. Staff from San Jose’s Housing Department presented a comprehensive set of policies designed to protect and increase the stock of affordable housing, both within Urban Village and in other areas of the City. The breadth of recommended revisions touch on:

Social equity and diversity (H-1 to H-1.10);
Jobs and housing fit (IP-2.6); and
Affordable housing (H-2.1 to H-2.18; IP-5.2; IP-5.11)

Staff recommendations included the following policies that will benefit those in need for affordable housing:

By right development for projects that are 100 percent deed-restricted affordable, regardless of Horizon designation. (IP-5.11)
Conversion of small, vacant parcels zoned for Mixed-Use Commercial or Neighborhood/Community Commercial, for projects that are 100 percent deed-restricted affordable provided is surrounded by residential uses on at least two sides. (H-2.5)
A goal that at least 25 percent of all new housing developed in Urban Villages are deed-restricted affordable housing, with 15 percent of the units targeting households with incomes below 60 percent of the area median income.

Staff also recommended including the following long-term strategies that will be beneficial to overall housing stock in the City:

Advancing a mechanism for a regional approach to addressing regional housing needs. (H-2.10)
Exploring new programs, policies, and partnerships. (H-2.18)
Monitoring San Jose’s housing stock (by type and cost) in relation to jobs and incomes, also known as jobs and housing fit. (IP-2.6)

Join us to weigh in at the next Task Force meeting on Thursday, March 24th at 6:30 PM.

SJ Mercury News Op-Ed: San Jose needs affordable housing to sustain its economy

February 12, 2016 – Kevin Zwick, CEO of the Housing Trust Silicon Valley and Board Member of SV@Home, writes about the need for San Jose to prioritize increasing affordable housing in order to sustain its economy, and presents 4 solutions that would encourage affordable housing opportunities without needing City funding. Read the full op-ed published by the San Jose Mercury News here.

SV@Home Launches on 6/25/2015

Riverwood Plaza_MidPen_Santa ClaraWe are excited to include you as we celebrate the creation of SV@Home, a new start-up venture that will tackle the affordable housing crisis in Santa Clara County.  This new membership-based organization will lead efforts to secure new funding sources, support stronger land use policies, and engage and educate the community about the importance of affordable housing.

Please join us on June 25th to meet our board of directors, our funders, and our executive director, and to learn about our exciting initiatives for our first year. Leadership Board Chair Ron Gonzales, former Mayor of San Jose, will introduce our partners and leaders to share how we got here, and most importantly, where we are going.  Coffee and light refreshments will be served.

A consortium of Housing Trust Silicon Valley, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and the Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California, has been working for over 18 months to give birth to SV@Home.  It is a product of input from stakeholders from across the county, with more voices joining the chorus every day.

Santa Clara’s affordable housing crisis is real.  It takes more than $54 an hour to afford the area’s median apartment rent of $2,825.  The median house price is $879,000.  More than 7,000 people are homeless every night.  We must take action to respond—our quality of life and continued economic success depends on it.