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Fw: HAC Reminder Plus

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  • Shishir Mathur
    Those interested in affordable housing, read on..... Shishir Mathur, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Urban and Regional Planning Department One Washington Square San
    Message 1 of 1 , May 7, 2008
      Those interested in affordable housing, read on.....

      Shishir Mathur, Ph.D.
      Assistant Professor
      Urban and Regional Planning Department
      One Washington Square
      San Jose' State University
      San Jose', CA 95192-0185
      Phone: 408-924-5875
      Fax: 408-924-5872

      -----Forwarded by Shishir Mathur/SJSU on 05/07/2008 11:16AM -----

      To: "Shiloh Ballard" <sballard@...>
      From: "Shiloh Ballard" <sballard@...>
      Date: 05/06/2008 01:22PM
      Subject: HAC Reminder Plus

      Dear Housing Action Coalition,


      Apologies for multiple emails but there are a couple time sensitive items we wanted to bring to your attention:

      -           This Thursday, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will be considering an item related to the County’s difficult budget problems.  There is a proposal to suspend for five fiscal years, the 30% allocation from the sale, lease or development of General Fund surplus property to support affordable housing.  Information is available at the following link under agenda item 19.  If you would like more information and want to figure out how to get involved, let me know and I’ll point you in the right direction. http://www.sccgov.org/portal/site/scc/boardagenda?contentId=ae95d91b4b5a9110VgnVCMP2200049dc4a92____&agendaType=Committee%20Agenda

      -           Also, the City of San Jose Housing Department will be hosting two community forums on inclusionary zoning.  One is on Wednesday of this week at 5:30pm and one on the 14 th at 5:30pm.  Information about the forums is available at: http://www.sjhousing.org/report/Misc/Inclusionary/Flyer.pdf If you know folks who are interested in the topic, please encourage them to attend. 

      -           On June 10 th , 3-5pm, the Leadership Group will be hosting Housing & Community Development Department Secretary Lynne Jacobs for a dialogue about finding a statewide permanent source of funding for affordable housing.  Details will be forthcoming but in the meantime, save the date!


      Also, one thing I forgot to mention in the last HAC meeting notice was the continuing discussion about Housing Element updates.  We had talked about selecting a set of policies that we might advocate and I had passed out the material we used during the previous cycle.  That document is pasted below.  As well, there is information about Housing Element Law at: http://www.hcd.ca.gov/hpd/housing_element/index.html .  Please review these policies and come prepared to discuss/vote on whether to move forward on having the HAC officially advocate this agenda.  And, if you have ideas about what should be included on the list, please come prepared to propose those additions.


      As a final note, don’t forget that we have HAC this Friday, May 9th, 11am to 1pm at the Santa Clara Central Library ( 2635 Homestead Road , Santa Clara .)  O ur guest speaker is Greg Greenway, Executive Director of the Threshold 2008 project in San Mateo .  Threshold 2008 was formed to engage the public on housing issues and options in San Mateo County in order to ensure a better long-term quality of life for all who are affected by our housing choices. The project is working to understand the range of perspectives on housing issues so that leaders will be in a better position to make decisions that support and sustain our community.


      Thanks and please let me know if you have any questions.


      Shiloh Ballard
      Housing & Community Development
      Silicon Valley Leadership Group
      224 Airport Parkway, Suite 620
      San Jose 95110
      408-501-7861 fax

      Housing Action Coalition

      Housing Element Menu of Policies

      Rezoning & Reusing Underutilized Land and Buildings

      Rezone surplus industrial, institutional and commercial land for residential use, or for mixed-use development options.  Also, encourage conversion, or reuse, of specific outmoded/unneeded sites such as surplus land owned by churches, public agencies and defense bases.  Areas identified during the housing element process as suitable for medium and high density residential development should be zoned for “by right” development to reduce the need for hearings on conditional use permits.  Communities must zone for “by right” multi-family housing development if the inventory of sites indicates that there are insufficient sites to meet the regional housing needs allocation.

      Some areas that might be suitable for rezoning include vacant and underutilized land parcels and blighted areas.  Many communities have a more than adequate supply of employment-generating land uses, and thus could rezone some surplus industrial and commercial land for residential use.  Public agencies often own land that is surplus, or where a potion of the land (e.g. part of the parking lot or one of the buildings) might be reused for residential development. 

      Affordable Housing Overlay Zones

      Establish an affordable housing overlay zone that permits, by right, the development of affordable housing on medium and high density residential properties that are covered by the overlay.  This zone could also apply to commercial, mixed-use and light industrial areas where housing could be built as a mixed-use and or as a more intensive use, provided affordable units would be included.  Affordable housing overlay zones should also provide for building cluster standards that permit appropriate densities, changes in parking requirements, lot lines, outdoor requirements, etc. and provide for various mixed uses, cooperative housing, second units, etc.  Developments on properties that fall within the overlay zone are not subject to discretionary permit approval or zoning change approvals, although they would be subject to full design review, including a public hearing and the opportunity for neighborhood residents to ensure that the design addresses their specific concerns.

      A critically important part of ensuring that affordable housing is built is to identify appropriate sites, and provide those sites with the regulatory zoning needed.  To be feasible for affordable housing development serving low and very-low income households, sites must meet the criteria to compete well for tax credits and other subsidies: for instance, they must allow for densities of at least 20 units to the acres (before density bonuses) be close to transportation and be readily supplied with utilities and services. 

      Permit Streamlining

      Developers estimate that every month required for processing a development application adds at least one to two percent of the overall cost of a housing development.  When development processing requires a year or more, the resulting impact on housing costs can be significant.  As a result, each city should streamline review procedures by reviewing the application and review process to identify structural or procedural issues that could be improved while maintaining adequate protections for community livability and environmental quality.

      Density Bonuses and Other Incentives

      Communities can adopt zoning and subdivision regulations to allow a density bonus above what is normally permitted on the site in exchange for the provision of some below market rate housing units.  The bonus is usually specified as a percentage of the density allowable under existing zoning regulations.  California law requires local governments to grant a 25 percent density bonus or provide other incentives of equal value to a developer in exchange for an agreement that the extra units be affordable.

      To implement these provisions, each local government must adopt ordinances to either (1) grant a density bonus of at least 25 percent and provide an additional incentive, or (2) provide a financially equivalent incentive(s).  The provisions of the state law apply to all cities and counties, and to all housing developments of five or more units.  Note that the density bonus units need not be in the same location as the base units.  In combination with other land use concessions and or financial subsidies, a density bonus, like other land use techniques, can be a powerful tool for affordable housing.  Density bonuses in exchange for affordability can also be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

      Minimum Densities

      Establish a minimum number of homes permitted in each of the multifamily zones, to ensure that sites zoned to accommodate higher densities do not end up with significantly lower densities.

      In many cities, sites that could have provided a significant amount of housing get built with a much-reduced number of units.  For example, in San Jose , a site zoned for close to 900 homes ended up being approved at closer to 500 homes. 

      Parking Standards

      Parking standards can have a significant affect on housing affordability as well as on the ability to achieve designated densities.  Too often, parking standards fail to take into account the real vehicle ownership rates and use patterns of the development’s prospective residents, resulting in excessive onsite parking.  Excessive parking requirements reduce the number of homes that can be provided in the development, add to the per-home costs, encourage automobile use, and reduce the potential for other site and building amenities.  They can also have a significant impact on building design and perceived density, making a relatively low-density development appear to be much higher density and resulting in large portions of the site being covered in asphalt rather than in landscaping or other amenities.  Lastly, because parking construction costs are passed on as a housing cost, tenants are forced to pay for a parking space whether they use it or not. 

      There are a number of methods for addressing inadequate parking requirements including:




      Transit Corridor Rezoning

      Jurisdictions should pro-actively rezone along future and current transit corridors to accommodate higher densities.  Mixed-use should also be encouraged along commercial streets that are transit routes.  In establishing such mixed use and higher density zones, reduced parking requirements should be incorporated and shared parking arrangements should be encouraged. 

      Transit corridors are ideal locations for higher density housing.  Putting housing close to transit is especially important for lower income workers, seniors and others who cant drive or don’t own a car, and increasing densities means transit systems will be better utilized.  For mixed-use development, policy and regulation needs to be made very specific, with building height and floor area maximum exceptions, density bonuses and reduced parking standards to encourage mixed use near services and transit.

      SRO Hotels and Efficiency Studios

      An SRO usually is small, between 80-250 square feet.  It typically has a sink and a closet but shares a bathroom, shower and kitchen with other rooms.  An efficiency apartment also is small but contains a small cooking area and bathroom.  Encourage the preservation and rehabilitation of existing residential hotels and other buildings suitable for SRO or efficiency apartments; also, encourage new SRO and efficiency apartment construction by permitting, by right , SRO or efficiency studio development in any high-density multifamily residential zone or commercial/light industrial zone.  SRO and efficiency studio housing must be exempt from transient occupancy taxes.

      Mixed Use

      Mixed-use development combines residential uses with one or more other uses such as office, retail, civic, entertainment.  Mixed use can be either “vertical” (mixing uses within a single structure) or “horizontal” (mixing uses on a large site, with each use confined to a separate building or set of buildings).

      Mixing uses often requires changes to the zoning ordinance or planned unit development (PUD) regulations.  To encourage housing, a community can allow residential uses in commercial areas and other nonresidential zones, especially downtowns, thereby creating multi-use areas.  Or, the community can set up a mixed-use zoning district.

      Increased Densities

      Sufficient land should be zoned for multi-family development at densities that will make feasible the development of various types of housing --to accommodate the unmet need for low-, very-low, and moderate income households identified in the Housing Element.

      Increase Redevelopment Funds Targeted for Affordable Housing 

      Jurisdictions should target a higher percentage of redevelopment funds for affordable housing.  State law requires that cities set aside 20% of redevelopment funds for affordable housing.  This is just a base line and we would encourage cities to go above that State mandate.  During the last housing element cycle, Santa Clara raised its commitment to affordable housing by setting aside 30% of its redevelopment funds for affordable housing. 

      Waive or Reduce Fees for Affordable Housing   

      To help achieve housing affordability levels that lower income residents can comfortably bear, jurisdictions should waive or reduce (perhaps on a sliding scale related to the level of affordability) fees for housing that is affordable to households earning less than 100% of the area Median Income level.  This is particularly important for low-income studio and SRO units, which are typically charged the same fees as larger units, resulting in huge fees due to having many small units.     At a minimum, all jurisdictions should enact policies deferring fees for affordable housing until occupancy or the close of permanent financing, whichever occurs later.  

      Accessory Units/Second Units

      A second unit is an additional self-contained living unit on the same lot as the primary residential unit.  It may be either attached to or detached from the primary unit, but must contain cooking, eating, sleeping and full sanitation facilities.  Second units are also known as in-law units or accessory dwellings and are sometimes called granny flats although that term also applies to a similar but more restrictive type of unit.

      Opposition to second units generally comes from neighborhood concern over parking and traffic impacts.  Local regulation can control the location, size, parking requirements, and architectural compatibility.  In order to minimize fears that single-family neighborhoods will be overrun by second units, some communities limit the number of second units by neighborhood.

      Master EIR & Comprehensive neighborhood planning

      A big impediment to building more affordable housing and creating mixed-use neighborhoods is that developers usually have little or no certainty about what the community may want and whether their proposed project will be approved.  Most projects--especially higher density, mixed-use, and affordable housing--must go through a lengthy review and approval process.  At the end of this process, the project may be denied altogether, scaled-back, or rendered financially infeasible because of changes the city is requiring.  Further, developers estimate that every month required for processing a development application adds at least 1 to 2 percent to the overall cost of a housing development.

      These types of barriers and costs can be greatly reduced through developing a special plan, sometimes referred to as a "neighborhood", "specific", "master", or "area" plan.  The size of these plan areas can vary from a small neighborhood to a whole section of town.  Cities can initiate these, or residents can call for this type of planning process, but in either case there should be community visioning and involvement.  The plan will result in a detailed blueprint for the location and types of housing, neighborhood amenities, commercial development, open space, and other land uses that are to be allowed and encouraged within the plan area.  For the developer, this provides as much guidance as possible on desired land uses and appropriate development types in various areas within the plan.  If the city also produces a Master EIR for the plan, this will reduce the number of required discretionary approvals needed for each project, thereby significantly reducing costs and time.  One caveat to note: specific plans and master EIRs are a major expense for the local jurisdiction, so political support for them will need to be generated.

      LEM, location efficient mortgages

      Location Efficient Mortgage services allows a mortgage lender to recognize the transportation-related cost savings of living in convenient, high-density communities with transit access by adding the savings onto the qualifying income of the consumer. For instance, a household making $50,000 may qualify for a 30-year loan of $163,000 at 8% using conventional underwriting guidelines; using Location Efficient Mortgage services that household could qualify for a $213,000 mortgage -- depending on how "location efficient" their desired piece of property or condominium is. The level of the savings results from extensive studies on auto ownership, driving levels, transit access and other variables which identify how much households are spending on their transportation needs.

      Major financial institutions can assist in the development of low and moderate-income housing by making location efficient mortgages available.   Local governments can help local nonprofits access these resources by leveraging public subsidies with private financing.

      Preservation of Affordable Housing

      The loss of affordability restrictions on a substantial portion of government –assisted rental housing stock will be one of the largest housing-related problems for California cities and counties.  The housing most as risk of being converted to market-rate housing currently shelters very low-income senior and families with children.

      Several State programs provide specific funds for affordable housing at risk of conversion.  These include California Housing Finance Agency’s Preservation financing Program, which provides tax-exempt financing for the acquisition or refinancing of a project with expiring Section 8 contracts, and the new Multi-family Housing Program which will also provide low-interest, deferred long-term loans.  Additionally, the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee and the California Debt limit Allocation Committee both provide preferences for federally assisted at risk projects. 

      Local Jurisdictions should also work closely with the county housing authority, local nonprofits, state agencies and others who are affected by or interested in the potential loss of assisted units.  These agencies can play a key role in designing and carrying out effective preservations strategies. 






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