News

Affordable housing more scarce than ever

Report shows county falling farther behind in housing for low-income residents

On Dec. 5, one of Elena Pacheco's biggest fears came true -- she received an eviction notice for the California Street apartment where she has lived for 23 years.

"Basically I have to get out of my apartment in 60 days," said Pacheco, "I am a part-time teacher -- where are the houses in Mountain View that I can afford?" Pacheco said. "I taught for 20 years in schools, it's time for me to retire. I should be enjoying my part-time teaching and my work with the Dreamers (undocumented students), but instead I'm trying to find a decent place to live."

Besides teaching in local schools, Pacheco has long been a community leader and activist for local "Dreamers" -- immigrants who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children, but cannot obtain citizenship. According to her eviction notice, her landlord wants to move into her three-bedroom apartment, which she shares with housemates to defray rental costs.

Pacheco's situation is emblematic of a growing crisis in Santa Clara County for low-wage workers, say those involved in building subsidized housing.

Pacheco has held out hope -- she's been on a waiting list since 2007 -- that she might get a unit in a place like the apartment complex recently built at the corner of Evelyn and Franklin streets, which houses 51 low-income families. But so far, no luck. The demand for such homes is "just overwhelming," said Matt Franklin, president of MidPen Housing Corp., which manages nearly 1,000 affordable units in Mountain View.

"The waiting lists are so long," said Beth Fraker, communication director for MidPen. Applicants could be on a wait-list for "a minimum of three years and could be seven years for our family properties."

Making matters worse are state and federal budget cuts to affordable housing funds, along with the elimination of redevelopment agencies that were required to provide 20 percent of their tax revenue to affordable housing.

According to a recent report by the Housing Trust Silicon Valley, funds for subsidized low-income housing projects have dropped by 64 percent since 2008 in Santa Clara County, down from $126.2 million available in 2008 to only $47.3 million a year. That is enough to subsidize only 313 homes throughout the county, far fewer than the 2,000 a year needed to meet new demands, according to goals set by the Association of Bay Area Governments.

Franklin called on Google and other large employers to help fund subsidized housing, as explosive job growth has driven up the demand and cost of housing.

"We hear from the business community that they understand the problem," Franklin said. "For the last five years the lack of affordable housing in the area has been among their top three policy concerns. But we're not seeing investment from those corporations in the Silicon Valley Housing Trust at the level you would expect."

"If they put $10 million into (the Housing Trust's) fund they could help create another 500 units," Franklin added. "We just fundamentally have an under-supply of affordable units and we've got to do something about it."

Pacheco has noticed all the the new luxury apartments being built in Mountain View, like the "Carmel at the Village" on San Antonio Road and the Madera complex that opened this year at 455 West Evelyn Ave, where rents are as high as $8,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment. Developer Prometheus plans to build two other such complexes with similar rents, and several other developers also have luxury complexes in the works.

"They are building more for the rich community versus the poor community," Pacheco said.

Zwick said most people imagine job growth in Silicon Valley as for software programmers and engineers, but in reality, "for every high tech job that gets created, there's four other jobs created in the economy. The majority of jobs that are going to come are low-wage professions."

Job growth exacerbates the need for for affordable housing, Zwick said.

"The market does a really good job at providing housing for people at middle- and upper-income levels," Zwick said. "In order to get new housing available to people earning below $50,000 a year, which is a tremendous amount of households in the Valley, you need tools."

There is no single program that is going to solve the whole problem, but Zwick said there are a lot of individual things that can be done.

The Housing Trust report calls for cities to increase fees on development for affordable housing, to use surplus public property for housing, and to get state legislation passed that would allow cities to pass tax measures for affordable housing, among other things. The report notes the example of a recent survey commissioned by the city of Mountain View which showed that a majority of voters would pass such a tax measure, but that it would fail to garner the required two-thirds vote needed to pass it.

Franklin said low-wage workers who cannot afford the $2,467 average monthly rent in the county are essential to the future of the Valley but they are being driven out of Santa Clara County.

"We know what the impacts are. They are living in inadequate and unsafe and overcrowded housing, many families are doubled or tripled up, many are homeless, others are driving an hour to two hours from the East Bay, which clogs our roads or pollutes our environment. Folks still need to work, and they are doing their best, but it's not a sustainable dynamic."

Zwick said other cities should follow Mountain View's lead in raising "housing impact fees" on commercial development, which was done a year ago.

"If every city follows Mountain View's lead and passes a housing impact fee increase -- that would almost fill the whole need for affordable housing we identified," Zwick said.

But Franklin said the City Council should have gone even farther in raising the fee, as city staff had recommended, to $15 a square foot. Council members voted instead to increase it from $7.43 to $10 per square-foot, equal to $1 million for every 100,000 square feet of new commercial development.

Council members also refused to raise affordable housing fees on rental developments as high as recommended by city staff, going with $10 per square foot instead of the $21.94 recommended.

This story corrects an error in the print version

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mountain View
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 13, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I can't believe this can happen to a teacher who also does work for the community all for greed. It's terrible what is happening with the rents in the community. Landlords are just on the bandwagon raping renters who can't afford it. They should be ashamed and yet there is the City of Mountain View is just out to basically to cater only to the Google, Facebook clientele only. Now what low rent apartments are let no they are kicking out teachers and other lower income people to make way for the $4,000-8,000 dollar rents, just despicable.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Questioner
a resident of another community
on Dec 13, 2013 at 2:35 pm

This is terrible but there may be a solution. Are 3 bedroom house rentals rising as much as these $8000 2 bedroom apartments?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmm
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Martin Omander
a resident of Rex Manor
on Dec 13, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Landlords are business people like any other; they have made investments and they are in the game to make money. They also pay taxes on their profits, which pays for services we all use. Calling them greedy solves nothing.

What we can do is change zoning to allow for more housing supply and more walkable neighborhoods. More supply means lower prices. Also, keeping density artificially low by government fiat puts a damper on economic growth, which we need if our kids are going to have a bright future and if we are going to be able to pay off our debts.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Dec 13, 2013 at 4:07 pm

What a minute here. This eviction thing is effecting lots of people here, doesn't matter if you are native or non native. Home prices have risen leaving young buyers out or ones who haven't landed such a great job.

Soon you won't get people to come here and do normal jobs.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by DEVELOPER
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 13, 2013 at 7:57 pm

DEVELOPER is a registered user.

DEVELOPERS WORK BEST WHITH HIGH PERCENTAGE OF LOW INCOME PEOPLE TO BUILD BUILD BUILD BUILD MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING.
LOW WAGES PEOPLE +. HIGH DEMAND OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING. =. ONLY WAY TO MAKE POSSIBLE DEVELOPERS DREAM DAY (with Gov. Money to Build Build Build and SEGREGATE THE POOR LIVING IN BUILDING WITH POOR PEOPLE AND THE RICH ON BETTER NEIGHBORHOODS. FINALLY, EAST TYPE OF NEIGHBORHOODS IN THE WEST RIGHT HERE NOW IN MOUNTAIN VIEW, OR SHOULD WE SAY CONCRETE VIEW.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by AK
a resident of Rex Manor
on Dec 13, 2013 at 11:49 pm

AK is a registered user.

This really sucks. I'm one of the "techies", and we have no trouble making ends meet here (yet), but with every passing year I'm more and more scared by the thought of raising my kids in the kind of community where what is described in the article is the norm. I know how the market works, so I'm not going to wring my hand over "greedy landlords", but the net result is still terrible, with very real people suffering greatly, and having their lives turned around, or maybe even truly ruined. Think about it, every one of you who has enough now to go to bed at night feeling safe and happy - how would you feel if it was slipping away and there was little you could do about it? How would you feel if you had nowhere to turn to and were surrounded by those who had more and didn't care?

Been here for 16 years now, lived through two booms and two busts, but averaging it all out I am now convinced we've started to undermine our success from the inside. Unless we have some kind of drastic changes in local government, zoning laws, and tech industry involvement in solving our problems at the regional level (all seem very unlikely right now), the reckoning may come sooner than we think - at the very least another bust, probably more. We're not New York, LA, or Chicago. I don't think we have enough physical space or a transportation network to grow and ebb more steadily and absorb these booms and busts organically. We need plans and systemic changes, and we don't really have any viable ones. I sure hope I'm wrong about my predictions, but I feel very uneasy going to bed tonight.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Moffet Resident
a resident of Willowgate
on Dec 14, 2013 at 9:52 am

Moffet Resident is a registered user.

AK - You said it well.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by DavidR
a resident of another community
on Dec 14, 2013 at 3:16 pm

DavidR is a registered user.

There are two factors that drive up land values. One is the increase in demand. The other is the increase in the allowable building density. If the entire city is redeveloped according to current standards, then Mountain View will be home to 500,000 people, presumably sucking away all the growth in many nearby cities.

What happens is that when you can put 200 apartments on a plot of land that formerly was limited to just 50, then the land becomes more valuable. It may not become 4 times as valuable but we have seen an actual doubling in land value over not too many years. This raises the value of housing single family, condo, or apartment. There is incentive to tear down the cheaper housing and replace it with more expensive options. So where you had 50 $3000 apartments you wind up with 200 $6000 apartments. How does this help affordable housing?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett83
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2013 at 11:54 am

Garrett83 is a registered user.

First people just do move here because of views or mountains, work. All these tech people are coming here for work that is being created by whatever tech thing is selling.

We have created to many jobs then housing, rents and home prices rise. Something like over 5,000 jobs have been created, don't count the jobs already here.

Samsung is building a office campus for 1200 employees. Moffet Towers is expanding, makes sense to build housing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors
a resident of another community
on Dec 16, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Dear Neighbors & Friends,
Neighbors Helping Neighbors has quite a lot of data just based on those hundreds of middle income ($65k to $30k) Palo Alto and some Mtn View residents on our rosters. In addition to those who were housed middle income but now are midddle and low income unhoused. Too many of our upper middle income residents at $65k can no longer afford to pay market rents and their basic needs (food, medications and transporation) in Santa Clara or San Mateo counties.
Its heart breaking to witness our middle income working neighbors become vehicle dwellers. Currently, we serve 60+ vehicle dwellers. But we are aware of 200 not yet on our rosters. Shockingly, there is a significant portion of vehicle dwellers with schoolchildren. We have recently collaborated with PAUSD to provide outreach to these displaced families.
We have programs that include some alternative measures like no/low cost shared housing networks to help keep some of these families and individuals (majority middle income) housed. But we are now being savotaged by continuing escalating rents and cost of basic needs. It's really a financial tsunami that isn't subsiding.

We can't give up hope. The answer really needs to be that everyone from product mfgs, food producers and landlords lower their expectations and prices.
If you know the lady (part time teacher) from this article or anyone else who is struggling please have them contact us.
Lastly, Mr. DeBolt if you are interested, I have more to say about alternative measure our cities, businesses, residents and neighbors in need can implement now to keep too many more of our residents from falling through the cracks and gaps.
Kindly,
Caryll-Lynn Taylor
Exec. Director & Food Programs Chair
NeighborsHelpingNeighbors2013@gmail.com
Phone: 650-283-0270
P.O. BOX 113
Palo Alto, CA 94302

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors
a resident of another community
on Dec 17, 2013 at 8:15 am

Dear Friends & Neighbors,
          Neighbors Helping Neighbors has quite a lot of data just based on the hundreds of middle income ($65k to $30k) Palo Alto and some Mtn View residents on our rosters. In addition to those who were stable housed middle income but now are midddle and low income unhoused. Too many of our upper middle income residents at $65k can no longer afford to pay market rents and their basic needs (food, medications and transporation) in Santa Clara or San Mateo counties.
         Its heart breaking to witness our middle income working, unemployed, students & retired senior neighbors become vehicle dwellers.
Currently, we serve 60+ vehicle dwellers. But we are aware of 200 not yet on our rosters. Shockingly, there is a significant portion of vehicle dwellers with schoolchildren. We have recently collaborated with PAUSD to provide outreach to these displaced families.
         We have programs that include some alternative measures like no/low cost shared housing networks to help keep some of these families and individuals (majority middle income) housed. But we are now being savotaged by continuing escalating rents and cost of basic needs. It's really a financial tsunami that isn't subsiding.

         We can't give up hope. The answer really needs to be that everyone from product mfgs, food producers and landlords lower their expectations and prices.
         If you know anyone who is struggling please have them contact us.
NeighborsHelpingNeighbors2013@gmail.com
Phone: 650-283-0270
P.O. BOX 113
Palo Alto, CA 94302

Web Link


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