San Mateo County attempts to take on housing crisis


It's pretty hard to miss the fact that the Bay Area is having a housing crisis.

Employers are losing workers to other states or other parts of California, workers are accepting longer and longer commutes, and young people are either ganging together to rent bedrooms (or shared bedrooms) in single-family homes or moving in with their parents.

Home prices and rents are skyrocketing, the homeless population is growing and many families who had been living on the edge are finding themselves edged out of the Bay Area altogether.

San Mateo County is attempting to fight back, and on multiple fronts:

• On June 28, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a new fund that will provide loans to those willing to purchase existing affordable multi-family rental housing with the promise to keep existing tenants and retain affordable rents for at least 30 years. The supervisors had earlier budgeted $10 million for the fund.

• The supervisors also heard a report June 28 from a task force made up of a diverse group of government, business and community representatives from throughout the county that has been meeting for the past nine months to find ways to close the gap between new jobs and new housing in the county.

• On June 29, county officials met with representatives of local apartment building owners to work toward a cooperative solution to another problem: many of those who have federal Section 8 vouchers to subsidize their rent can't find landlords who will take their vouchers.

• The supervisors also talked about how to fund the housing initiatives. At their July 12 meeting, the supervisors are expected to consider possible funding measures that could be put on the November ballot, including a housing bond measure or an extension of the county's existing sales tax.

• Another measure that the county figures will contribute $1.2 million a year toward affordable housing is a newly passed affordable housing impact fee that will apply to most new construction in San Mateo County starting July 7.

"Housing has really reached a crisis level not only in our county but in the entire Bay Area," said Supervisor Don Horsley at the June 28 Board of Supervisors meeting. Between 2010 and 2014, 55,000 new jobs were created in the county but only 2,000 new housing units were built, meaning there were 26 new jobs for every new unit, he said.

Last year, the county helped MidPen Housing acquire and preserve nine units of housing in Pacifica and helped HIP Housing purchase a 16-unit building in San Mateo. This year, a report from Ken Cole, head of the county's housing department, said the county hopes to help save between 40 and 100 affordable units with the newly approved program.

"It's an important first step," Cole said. "This does prevent displacement."

Task force

The fund was one of the ideas that came out of the Closing the Jobs/Housing Gap Task Force that the county put together last year.

The task force's 55 members include representatives of every San Mateo County town and city, business organizations and employers, housing developers (for-profit and nonprofit), community organizations providing housing services, community advocates and legal aid organizations, labor organizations, the community college district and the county office of education.

The group has been meeting since November and came up with a plan that includes a "Home for All - San Mateo County" website with a "housing toolkit" with ideas for local government, the public and businesses, and information on adding second housing units to single-family homes.

Every council and board participating in the task force will be asked to approve a resolution committing to working on housing and on the task force's action plan. The plan envisions all the county's cities and towns cooperating to provide more housing, including lobbying Sacramento for legislation allowing cities to pool their affordable housing funds in joint projects.

Communities that don't have impact fees charging new development to pay toward affordable housing will be encouraged to adopt them.

The task force also recommended working to diffuse any community opposition to new affordable housing projects by setting up community meetings even before proposals go to local bodies for approval.

"There's a lot of good that could come from this," said Supervisor Dave Pine. He advocated housing being built on public land, including land owned by school districts as well as cities.

"I know we can't solve this problem alone, and it's going to be incremental in nature," board president Warren Slocum said.

"We've all heard horror stories about teachers" living in cars or classrooms, he said. "I'd really like to see us take some bold action ... in regards to teacher and employee housing."

Slocum said he'd also like to see more county funding of legal programs that represent tenants who are losing their housing.

"I totally agree we need to continue to keep people in their homes," Supervisor Adrienne Tissier said.

Section 8

Under the Section 8 housing voucher program, the federal government pays part of the rent for very low-income families, the elderly and the disabled. When county officials learned that nearly 400 San Mateo County households with Section 8 housing vouchers don't use them because they can't find a landlord willing to participate in the program, the officials vowed to do something about it.

On June 29 owners or property managers representing an estimated 5,600 units of San Mateo County rental housing met to talk about the problem. The county asked those who weren't already in the Section 8 program to take at least one tenant with a voucher, and those already participating to add one more Section 8 tenant.

Horsley said the county's goal was within four months to recruit enough landlords to participate in the Section 8 program that all the vouchers would be used.

Paying for it

The supervisors acknowledge that their $10 million investment in preserving affordable housing "is a drop in the bucket" when it comes to solving the county's housing problems.

But on the heels of the news that two major housing bond measures will be the November ballot -- $950 million in Santa Clara County and $580 million in Alameda County -- and San Francisco's passage of a $310 million housing bond measure last year, the supervisors say the time may be right to ask taxpayers for funds for housing in San Mateo County.

The supervisors don't have much time to meet the Aug. 12 deadline for getting a measure on the November ballot. A ballot measure option will probably be on the supervisors' agenda when they meet July 12.

"I definitely am leaning toward the bond," Supervisor Slocum said. Stories about county residents facing evictions "are just heart-wrenching," he said. "If we were to do a bond measure, that would, in fact, be transformative. There are so many people out there who are hurting."

Many of those in the audience at the June 28 meeting agreed.

Christin Evans, one of the owners of Kepler's Books, said that her business is losing employees who no longer can afford to live in the area. "I know our bookstore's not alone," she said. "We're all experiencing it."

Evans told about one employee whose entire family had been evicted after his mother died.

Leora Tanjuatco said that she and others who are in their 30s are finding their fundamental life choices, such as whether or not to have children, impacted by the price of housing. "Please approve funding for affordable housing," she said.

East Palo Alto City Councilman Carlos Romero urged the supervisors to support a $500 million bond measure for housing. "Come forward with part of a solution so folks are not displaced, so tenants can remain," he said.


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Like this comment
Posted by Tsunami
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 5, 2016 at 11:20 am

[Post removed.]

115 people like this
Posted by CidYoung
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2016 at 11:44 am

Living in the Bay Area is always a challenge. I recall a time when there were public housing projects, but now the Federal Government wants to simply give out Vouchers. On the flip side landlords must pass a yearly HUD inspection and put up with some rather lackadaisical tenants. If they don't keep up the place, it's on the landlord, so no wonder no one wants a Section 8 Tenant. When I hear BOND MEASURE I read "place the burden on property owners." SCHOOLS, SPECIAL DISTRICTS AND EVEN THE RECENTLY PASSED MEASURE AA FOR FLOOD CONTROL DUE TO SEA LEVEL RISE ALL BURDENS INDIVIDUAL PROPERTY OWNERS with more yet to come... I am tired of my home being a piggy bank for never-ending taxation.

6 people like this
Posted by Dean
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2016 at 12:31 pm

While I am one of many that are right at the edge of benefitting from assistance on housing, I can see a few problems with these approaches. First, there is going to be too little of an amount of money to provide much benefit. San Jose is looking to provide $950,000,000.00 to help alleviate the housing problems. This amount would not help more than possibly 2,000 homeless or near homeless people, yet they know they have over 35,000 people who need assistance, this is a shortfall of far more than they think. What kind of housing assistance are they proposing? Are they planning to buy/build 950 million dollar homes or 1,900 half a million dollar homes? Assistance to buy a house would take at least $500,000.00 per person/family to bring the payment within reason, and in many cases at least $1,000,000.00 per person/family. To assist rent would cost at least $25,000.00 per year per person/family up to as much as $50,000.00 per person/family per year, and while this approach would assist more people, it would fail to be anywhere near enough for a permanent solution. What do we do next year? Then the influx of people from outside San Jose to benefit from this would be tremendous. If they plan to buy or build apartments, the apartments would need the tennants to pay rent in order to maintain the building(s), pay for water, garbage, PG&E, yet many of these people have little or no income and likely wouldn't have enough to feed themselves much less pay for the rent for the apartment. Many simply do not want the responsibility of any housing. Also as has been proven time and time again, the apartment(s) will become instant slums, with neighborhood problems. I wouldn't want to live nearby and I'm sure those who read this would not want that near them either.

It appears these are just political ploys to provide a feel good for the taxpayers, and provide some businesses with a lot of money.

I have to side with the tax payers, even though I might benefit. I would vote no.


15 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 5, 2016 at 3:09 pm

Housing is not a crisis. Overpopulation is a crisis.

3 people like this
Posted by Dean
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2016 at 4:31 pm

Curmudgeon, right on!

I also wonder where all of these get ppolitician plan to get the water and electricity that will be needed to support ttttrrhe increased population. For one thing, they seem to be against desalinization, because That be able able to would interfere with the view. The desalinization plant really doesn't have to be at the seashore, however that increases the costs to maintain the intake pipe(s). The supply of seawater is virtually unlimited, as opposed to freshwater, and we know for sure mankind can't live without water.

The politicians also seem to be against electrical power generation, especially the most clean and efficient ones, wind power generation requires much acreage and fairly steady high winds, nuclear power which usually will not be a problem except when the emergency systems get shut off like at Three Mile Island. They are shutting down Diablo Canyon, and now we will have to get by with less electricity.

The one thing I do know if there is money in it, especially when they receive the money (legitimately or otherwise), they go all out to get the program into action.


1 person likes this
Posted by Todd
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2016 at 4:46 pm

[Post removed.]

24 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 5, 2016 at 5:13 pm

[Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

This thread is about too many people moving here and bidding up housing prices to ridiculous hights. There is a different blog about food nearby: Web Link.

Personally, I believe people should be left alone to live wherever they can afford and to eat whatever they can grow or buy. There are numerous alternatives in both categories on this planet. Some may be outside Palo Alto or the Bay Area. That's life.

Only the truly destitute should receive or expect charity. People with delusions of entitlement should not. Agreed?

Like this comment
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2016 at 7:52 pm

pearl is a registered user.


Can you please offer examples of what "truly destitute" means? I might qualify.

Thank you,

3 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2016 at 8:29 pm

[Post removed.]

116 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 5, 2016 at 9:09 pm

I rode up to SF on Caltrain and was astounded by the amount of open land in that County. The land is owned by the state and transportation entities. It is just sitting there.

Next Time someone says ABAG then tell them to go after the organizations that own all of this land that is just sitting there. HSR is going to put in a train yard in Brisbane that was suppose to be developed for housing. It is sickening to see the hypocrisy at the sate level concerning land use.

9 people like this
Posted by Dean
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2016 at 9:30 pm

In my eyes, ABAG should not exist! [Portion removed due to inaccuracies.] In some ways ABAG may have made life better for some people in the Bay area, but in general they make life miserable. [Portion removed.]

On to the people coming into the area, again, where is the water and electric power going to come from?

Let the businesses go where water and power is accessible. We have enough problems here with traffic, water, aircraft noise, etc. without having more people!


8 people like this
Posted by Desmond
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 12, 2016 at 6:35 am

So many people I know have left or are planning to leave California within the next few years. Property is way overvalued, yet salaries have not kept up. Greedy landlords are making it impossible for the average, working class families with children to live comfortably. Many are just a pat check or a few rent increases away from being homeless. An average 2 bed/1 bath apartment should NOT cost you $2500, that is insane. No one should have to use 50% and more of their income on basic shelter. Soon, every 30 or 40 year old apartment building you see will for be reserved for the RICH foreigners, because the middle/working class are slowly being squeezed out. California is not what it used to be. My neighbor of 13 years is heading to Austin in Sept. He was able to purchase a massive home or a fraction of what you can get here on CA, for a shack.

2 people like this
Posted by M. Blue
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 12, 2016 at 9:02 am

Political nonsense.
Someone needs to actually define "Housing Crisis" - I mean actually DEFINE IT so we can identify where it exists and where it doesn't, then establish metrics to measure it and establish a plan to address it (assuming it exists and can be addressed).

I say the whole concept is Baloney!.
This is an expensive area (like many others, New York, Hong Kong, Newport Brach, etc.) Prices are controlled by supply and demand. Attempts to manipulate the supply and demand curve through government meddling are futile, as posters have pointed out above. Our economic system and entire economy is based upon the freedom to move and relocate products and resources to most efficiently distribute and utilize them.

But once again, the government will cynically perform phone surveys to determine the maximum amount money to be taken from a vilified minority (property owners) exempting those over age 65 from the new tax. Once they get the survey results they want, they will claim broad community support for the new tax. The vote will allow EVERY REGISTERED VOTER to vote on the tax to be paid only by the vilified minority. Open the property tax piggy bank once again!

7 people like this
Posted by Amanda
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 14, 2016 at 8:56 am

Bay Area housing is INSANE. I'm moving out soon (hopefully before Christmas) and going back to Washington. Too many foreign investors and greedy landlords have made California a boring place to live. Soon it will be all Asian/Indian immigrants. No diversity, no charm, no artists. Just boring techies...Goodbye.

5 people like this
Posted by Thomas
a resident of Southgate
on Jul 16, 2016 at 1:18 pm

The Bay Area will soon have mass poverty, people sleeping on the streets, crime will increase even MORE, because people will survive by any means necessary due to the high, unaffordable rents. It's no coincidence that more homes, cars are getting burglarized and broken into lately. It's all a domino affect. As landlords, we need to wise up and look at the bigger picture here..

7 people like this
Posted by Statistically
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2016 at 1:22 pm

Statistically is a registered user.

The statistics from 2013 and 2014 both show that MORE people left California in those years than moved into California.

The statistics for 2015 will come out soon, and my educated guess is that they will be the same as 2014.

4 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of another community
on Jul 21, 2016 at 5:34 pm

Who are these Section 8 and subsidized people who need affordable housing? [Portion removed.] I live in a senior affordable housing in San Mateo in a nice neighborhood 80 percent of those that reside here are Russian, Asian, hispanic with a sprinkling of US citizens. There is a handful that pay rent based on income and are within the 30% income. [Portion removed.] Affordable housing is poorly managed and Section 8 is just one more government entitlement that needs a complete overhaul and investigation.

2 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Jul 21, 2016 at 6:53 pm

pearl is a registered user.

Thank you, Jane!!! I urge everyone to write to their elected representatives about the "affordable housing" crises here in San Mateo County, I'm a 75-year-old, life-long resident of San Mateo County. I'm forced to look for affordable housing because the new owner (a foreigner)of the Peninsula apartment building in which I've lived for the past 15 years, raised my rent over night by $675/month, so now I'm paying $2,000/month for a one-bedroom apartment in a 55-year-old building, leaving me with $278/month "left over" to pay for food, medical, etc.

I recently turned down an affordable housing living opportunity because of the smoking, noisy tenants, illegals, foreigners, thin walls in poorly constructed buildings, and poor management by the real estate companies and investment people who own them.

It is very disheartening, to say the least. So, we need to keep on our government "leaders" to make affordable housing available for people, American citizens, who legitimately need it.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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