On December 11th, the Mountain View City Council considered a proposal to demolish a 20-unit apartment building at 2005 Rock Street and redevelop the property with 15 for-sale townhouses and rowhouses. Current tenants and their supporters came out in force during the public comment period, expressing concerns that this action would permanently displace and cause hardship to the estimated 75 people who currently live in the relatively low cost apartments.

Following emotional testimony from tenants and a heated debate, the Council voted 4-3 to support the redevelopment proposal while adding a condition that tenants be allowed to remain in their homes through December 2019. As part of a previously announced relocation package, the developer also will pay the difference between tenants’ current rent and their new rent for one year.

SV@Home urged the Council to send the development back to the drawing board and schedule consideration of a moratorium on the demolition of naturally occurring affordable apartments to give staff time to consider options that would promote preservation or ensure that replacement housing promotes affordability and density.

At a time when the region faces a serious undersupply of housing, SV@Home agrees that it is appropriate in some circumstances to redevelop low-density housing developments to replace older, outdated buildings and achieve more density. However, in this particular case, the proposed development actually will reduce the number of units by 25%. And, importantly, it would replace 20 naturally occurring affordable rental homes with market-rate homes that are projected to sell for more than $1 million.

As Mountain View staff pointed out, the rents for the current apartment building average $1,938 for a two-bedroom apartment, making these modest, market rate, homes affordable to households with incomes below 80% of AMI – without any public subsidies.  Not only do these apartments serve lower-income households for whom there are not enough deed restricted opportunities, they are often the only housing options for missing-middle households that earn too much to qualify for deed restricted affordable housing and not enough to afford the new high-rent apartments being built in Mountain View.

According to SV@Home’s analysis of City records, since 2015 more than 610 units of older rental housing have been lost or are in the process of being demolished and rebuilt. To put this in perspective, the City permitted 135 very-low, low- and moderate-income affordable units during this same period.

While we are disappointed by the City Council’s decision, we know, as several Councilmembers stated, that this is neither the first redevelopment proposal of its kind nor will it be the last. We look forward to working closely with the City Council and staff to explore potential forward-looking policy solutions that will address the challenges of displacement in the new year.

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