During the study session Tuesday, Council member Margaret Abe-Koga said she had heard affordable housing developers complain recently that they had been turned away by Mountain View's planning department. That was because the council's own affordable housing strategy prescribed where and how affordable housing would be developed, which added many complications any time developers wanted to make their own proposals.
With that strategy expiring, the Council said Tuesday that it would abandon it in favor of what is called a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) to streamline the process. City staff said that NOFAs in the cities of Oakland and Napa encouraged a higher number of affordable housing developers to propose projects.
"I think you will have a lot more enthusiastic developers and more of them," said Duncan McVicar, a member of the homeless housing coalition, which aims to build housing for the homeless in Mountain View. Also supporting the idea was Doug DeLong of Advocates for Affordable Housing.
Councilwoman Laura Macias was the only council member to oppose the idea, noting the amount of thoughtful work that went into the city's affordable housing strategy, created by the council in 2006.
Under that strategy, the City Council identified certain affordable housing needs and came up with three affordable housing projects with a total of 275 units, including 120 efficiency studios at San Antonio Place, 104 senior homes at Paulsen Park and 51 affordable family homes at Evelyn and Franklin streets. The city contributed $17 million to those projects.
"I'm concerned we'll end up funding things that are not a priority for our residents," Macias said.
Macias disagreed with the assertion from city staff that it was not clear what type of affordable housing the city needed at this point — she pointed to affordable housing goals for Mountain View specified by the Association of Bay Area Governments.
"I'm frustrated by the fact that we have millions of dollars that we are not spending," said Mayor Ronit Bryant. "Making progress on any of these needs seems like a good thing.
Bryant suggested that developers propose projects that mix affordable housing types.
The city now has $18 million with which to subsidize new affordable housing projects, enough to build two or three housing projects, according to a city staff report. Fees on market rate housing development contributed $8.6 million while the city's revitalization district "housing set aside" funds contributed $9.3 million. City staff do no expect another influx of housing funds until the economy rebounds.
City Manager Kevin Duggan said the NOFA process could be a "reality check" for the city as another affordable housing strategy could result in projects that "nobody wants to do."