There can be little doubt that housing in the Bay Area and Mountain View specifically has reached levels that are unaffordable to many. Renters and new home buyers are well aware of the problem, but even long time home owners ask: "Could I buy my house today?" or "Will my children be able to afford living in the same community they grew up in?" Usually, the answer to both of these question is No.

Housing has become so expensive that long time residents have had to move away, leaving friends and family. Yet, many of these same people still work in our community and now have to spend hours on the freeway getting to and from work. This worsens area traffic, places an unbearable burden on those who have to suffer through it daily and significantly increases carbon emissions.

Affordable Housing is a term that is casually thrown about.  But what does it mean?  A very expensive market rate house in Mountain View may be relatively more affordable than one in Palo Alto.  This is however not what I mean when I refer to affordable housing.  There are federal guidelines that define affordability.  Generally speaking, housing is "affordable" if a person pays 30% of their income or less for housing.  In Mountain View, the Median Income for a family of four is about $105,500.  Low income is defined as earning between 50% and 80% of the median income, and very low income as between 30% and 50%.  In other words, a family of four earning $48,000 a year is a very low income family, and housing that would be affordable would have to cost less than 30%, or $1200 per month.

I have been a vocal advocate of affordable housing and was a leading proponent of the Below Market Rate housing program, the Housing Impact Fee, the efficiency studio apartment project at San Antonio Place and the affordable family housing at Bryant and Evelyn. These programs make more affordable housing available in the community because housing developers provide 10% of the units in a new development at prices affordable to people like teachers, police officers, fire fighters and others. Likewise commercial developers help create affordable housing opportunities through the Housing Impact Fee by paying a small fee for new commercial development which brings with it more employees, which increase the demand for housing. 

Mountain View MUST NOT become a community where only the well-to-do can afford to live. I want our teachers, firefighters, store clerks, children and others to be able to live in this wonderfully diverse community. To make that happen, we must continue to explore creative and collaborative ideas so that those who want to live and work here are able to do so. 

First, we must find a more efficient way to use the Housing Funds the City has accumulated through the BMR ordinance.  The process is too slow and the value of funds is being sapped by inflation.

Second, we must make the fee that housing developers pay instead of building an affordable unit more consistent with the actual cost of providing an affordable unit.  Currently, paying the fee is a "better deal" for the developer than building an affordable unit.  This needs to change.

Finally, as we have witnessed, ownership housing has become so expensive that it is virtually impossible to create affordable ownership homes.  The only alternative - building rental housing!  While market rate rental developers are curently exempt from our BMR ordinance, the City may impose a Rental Housing Impact Fee until such time as the exemption is removed.  I fully support the Rental Housing Impact Fee at a rate that will create an incentive for the developer to provide BMR units rather than pay the fee.  Historically there has been almost no new rental housing development in Mountain View, but times have changed and there are several projects in the planning stages.  Given that Mountain View is virtually "built out", new rental development will have to come from the re-development or older, inefficient and often seismically unsafe existing rental units.

It is the diversity of our community that makes Mountain View unique, and we MUST work hard to preserve that which makes us great.



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Mike Kasperzak for City Council
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