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East Palo Alto weighs proposed policy that aims to secure long-term affordable housing

Some homeowners concerned about implementation of Opportunity to Purchase Act

Traffic drives down University Avenue in East Palo Alto on Oct. 14, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

On Tuesday night, the East Palo Alto City Council was scheduled to hold a public hearing on a new housing ordinance that would give tenants, affordable housing nonprofits and the city the right of first offer to purchase residential properties before they go on the market.

Known as the Opportunity to Purchase Act (OPA), the policy is intended to preserve long-term affordable housing in the city by preventing the displacement of tenants. East Palo Alto has long been confronted with the challenges of soaring housing costs as well as fears of displacement of longtime, lower-income residents.

If adopted, qualified nonprofits, which in this case refers to a tax-exempt organization committed to providing affordable housing, would be given the opportunity to make the first bid to purchase a residential property — including a multifamily housing unit, apartment complex or certain single-family homes — up for sale. Tenants of a rental property also would have the first right to buy the home.

Owner-occupied properties with three or fewer units would be exempt from the ordinance. The proposed ordinance and Frequently Asked Questions section can be found on the city's website.

On Tuesday night, city staff was set to present the council with a version of the ordinance that was amended following public feedback from a community meeting held Dec. 1 and office hours on Dec. 3 and 6. The council took public comments but no immediate action was taken on the proposal. There will be a second reading of the ordinance during the next council meeting on Dec. 21.

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The city has proposed the ordinance as one way to fulfill its affordable housing goals outlined in its Affordable Housing Strategy adopted in October 2018. With a grant from the Partnership for the Bay's Future, a policy-oriented group focused on affordable housing, the city has worked to develop a Tenant or Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA/COPA) since mid-2019, and first proposed the policy to the council on Oct. 5.

The city amended the proposed ordinance after some homeowners expressed concerns that its goals of helping longtime, low-income tenants and securing more affordable housing only work in theory.

A group of anonymous homeowners put up a website titled "NO to EPA OPA," which argues that the policy will discourage developers from coming into East Palo Alto, among other issues.

If approved, East Palo Alto would join San Francisco and Washington, D.C, which have their own versions of an OPA law.

In 2019, San Francisco adopted a Community Opportunity to Purchase Act, giving nonprofits first rights to purchase multifamily residential buildings. Washington, D.C. also adopted a program in 1980, which has gone through several iterations, including one in 2018 that exempted single-family homes after an investigation found that renters were using a loophole in the law to hold up home sales and charge landlords exorbitant prices.

San Jose also is currently exploring its own version of a COPA policy.

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East Palo Alto weighs proposed policy that aims to secure long-term affordable housing

Some homeowners concerned about implementation of Opportunity to Purchase Act

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Dec 7, 2021, 1:27 pm
Updated: Wed, Dec 8, 2021, 9:07 am

On Tuesday night, the East Palo Alto City Council was scheduled to hold a public hearing on a new housing ordinance that would give tenants, affordable housing nonprofits and the city the right of first offer to purchase residential properties before they go on the market.

Known as the Opportunity to Purchase Act (OPA), the policy is intended to preserve long-term affordable housing in the city by preventing the displacement of tenants. East Palo Alto has long been confronted with the challenges of soaring housing costs as well as fears of displacement of longtime, lower-income residents.

If adopted, qualified nonprofits, which in this case refers to a tax-exempt organization committed to providing affordable housing, would be given the opportunity to make the first bid to purchase a residential property — including a multifamily housing unit, apartment complex or certain single-family homes — up for sale. Tenants of a rental property also would have the first right to buy the home.

Owner-occupied properties with three or fewer units would be exempt from the ordinance. The proposed ordinance and Frequently Asked Questions section can be found on the city's website.

On Tuesday night, city staff was set to present the council with a version of the ordinance that was amended following public feedback from a community meeting held Dec. 1 and office hours on Dec. 3 and 6. The council took public comments but no immediate action was taken on the proposal. There will be a second reading of the ordinance during the next council meeting on Dec. 21.

The city has proposed the ordinance as one way to fulfill its affordable housing goals outlined in its Affordable Housing Strategy adopted in October 2018. With a grant from the Partnership for the Bay's Future, a policy-oriented group focused on affordable housing, the city has worked to develop a Tenant or Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA/COPA) since mid-2019, and first proposed the policy to the council on Oct. 5.

The city amended the proposed ordinance after some homeowners expressed concerns that its goals of helping longtime, low-income tenants and securing more affordable housing only work in theory.

A group of anonymous homeowners put up a website titled "NO to EPA OPA," which argues that the policy will discourage developers from coming into East Palo Alto, among other issues.

If approved, East Palo Alto would join San Francisco and Washington, D.C, which have their own versions of an OPA law.

In 2019, San Francisco adopted a Community Opportunity to Purchase Act, giving nonprofits first rights to purchase multifamily residential buildings. Washington, D.C. also adopted a program in 1980, which has gone through several iterations, including one in 2018 that exempted single-family homes after an investigation found that renters were using a loophole in the law to hold up home sales and charge landlords exorbitant prices.

San Jose also is currently exploring its own version of a COPA policy.

Comments

Optimist Pessimist Realist
Registered user
East Palo Alto
on Dec 12, 2021 at 3:07 pm
Optimist Pessimist Realist , East Palo Alto
Registered user
on Dec 12, 2021 at 3:07 pm

From what I’ve heard listening to gentrifier property owners they get so much wrong about this potential law. It’s either on purpose or from ignorance. Then when correct information is given the same people refuse to acknowledge it.


EPA resident
Registered user
East Palo Alto
on Jan 13, 2022 at 4:16 pm
EPA resident, East Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 13, 2022 at 4:16 pm

Some questions:
1. If OPA will let the tenant to buy at the current market price as city claimed.
Why can't the tenant, maybe partner with nonprofits to do so now without the OPA? California law says owners must give tenants 60 days notice if they want to sell, so tenants and non profits can have 2 months to get pre-approval before it hits the market. These logically contradicting claims that city pushed so hard are the reason why people think this will bring down home values, not the flyers from BAHN or Mr.Danin)

2. Nora the RE economist said: Because funds are limited, non profits will only be able to buy very limited number of housing at market price, so the city's property tax loss would be immaterial.
So this economist that speak for the city is admitting OPA won't convert much existing housing into affordable housing, not to mention it will create 0 new affordable housing? What's the point then?

3. absentees owners or not, all landlord are paying city property tax as well as providing rental housing supply to EPA, they should be a stakeholder and be part of the discussion too.
But city choose to villianfy these tax payers that are funding the city and just call them lying Trumpian ? So their punishment from the OPA is justified ???

4.Corporate landlord like woodland park that owns thousands of units are not impacted by OPA at all but mom and pop landlord that own 1 house are subjected to it. How is it fair???


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 13, 2022 at 4:19 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jan 13, 2022 at 4:19 pm

What's a "gentrifier property owner"?


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