Price hike for affordable housing project


After approving the project last year, the City Council is being asked by the developer of a 51-unit affordable housing project to kick in additional funding of up to $4.4 million to make it feasible, bringing the city's costs for the $23 million project to $12.5 million.

The additional subsidy is necessary to help the project compete for a tax credit it was unable to receive last year. That tax credit had been counted on to help fund the project. The project ranked lower last year against projects in San Mateo County and Santa Clara County because its 36-percent city subsidy was not high enough, a city staff report says. This year the project is up against another from Palo Alto which is 57 percent subsidized with city funds, but there may be enough funding for two winners, the report says.

Five votes on the City Council will be required to approve the additional funding in Tuesday's meeting.

Critics of the project, developed by ROEM Corporation, say it is too expensive at $450,000 per unit, but Mayor Jac Siegel and others have touted the project's quality, which will make it undetectable as affordable housing. Meanwhile downtown neighbors have complained that the project would create a slum in their neighborhood and said even during the planning stages that it lowered their property values.

"I would prefer housing policy that creates more affordable housing rather than a few gold-plated units for people who happen to win a housing lottery," said council member John Inks when he voted against the project last year.

In June the council approved the project and a 65-year lease of the city property it would sit on.

City staff also report that, if not budgeted towards a project, a substantial portion of the city's housing funds may be used by the state for other purposes under legislation proposed this year. It is proposed that these "housing set-aside funds" be used for the increased subsidy.

The project's units will be divided equally among three groups, those who make 30 percent, 40 percent and 50 percent of the area median income, which is $96,000 a year for a family of four. Applicants who qualify are chosen in a lottery.

Depending on a family's income level and the size of apartment needed, rents will range from $563 to $1,600 for one-, two- or three-bedroom apartments, saving residents from $215 to $1,157 compared to a market-rate apartment of the same size. 

The funds would come from the substantial housing funds that the city has accumulated, now totaling $25.6 million, with $8.85 million budgeted. Council members have complained over the years that the city has not been able to effectively spend that money for affordable housing, which has led the city to make $12 million of it available in a new "Notice of Funding Availability" process to encourage affordable housing developers to come forward and make use of it.


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Posted by PH
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Mtn. View is a very expensive place to live. With that said, I sure wish someone would help with my rent. Everything costs more but my wages aren't going up enough to keep up. It is tough to pay taxes when you know that there are others who get help and you can't get help from anyone. When will they help the middle class who don't make too little and can't make enough to get help?

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Posted by bogaigh
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 8, 2011 at 9:31 am

What is incredible to me is that no one bats an eyelash at the statement that $450,000 is a low income house. Incredible. "We don't want any undesirable low-income bums who can only afford a $450,000 home!" Sheesh, what a strange place this is.

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Posted by DCS
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 8, 2011 at 9:38 am

@bogaigh - Maybe you don't know too much about the history of this project, most of the concern is that 450K is too much/unit for this construction. These will be rental units, they are not for sale. The idea is that ROEM will maintain these units instead of individual homeowners to ensure that the construction continues to fit in with the neighborhood for the lifetime of the project.
Please don't confuse this explanation for my personal approval of this project though, I don't like being subjected to someone else's theories. The project has been a horrible experience for me.

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Posted by Spaghetti Freddie
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 8, 2011 at 11:22 am

Mountain View already suffers from a very low rate of owner occupancy when compared to other local cities. As long as the city council continues to encourage and even subsidize high density rental units, we will continue to experience an ever increasing drain on city resources. More density means a growing need for more cops, more fire, more everything, and the revenue increase will not cover the cost increase. I am not sure why city government seems intent on creating slums. These subsidized projects are notorious for being fantastic for the first 7 years and a complete nightmare for the remaining 30.

The argument that city housing funds must be blindly spent before the state takes them should be despicable to all honest and decent people. If you have to advertise to give money away, it might be time to think about what you are doing. If you live in Mountain View, you live in California. There is no legitimate argument to be made that the city will put the money to better use than the state. If nothing else, if the state gets the money, there is an outside chance that our local school district might get some of it. I would much rather see money going to legitimate state projects than see the city taking out ads in the paper to get rid of the money on projects that may ultimately be a detriment to our community.

High end residential construction generally goes somewhere in the $400 a square foot range. That's with all the trimmmings. How large are these units? How does it make sense to subsidize housing that will be much nicer than the average taxpayers home in Mountain View? Why are we doing this?

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Posted by DCS
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 8, 2011 at 1:42 pm

@Spaghetti Freddie - I wish there were more people like you at the Council Meetings when this project was being approved. I went with some of my neighbors to these meetings, but we were ignored as was our petition.

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Posted by George
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 8, 2011 at 2:58 pm

EGADS, the world (MtnView at least) is upside down, Alice in Wonderland has come to life. We must spend 25 million bucks to build rental units for people earning up to $95 k per year , and then rent them out at a loss for 65 yrs ????
JEEZE Council, If you can, put the money in the General fund, or just let it go...
This "affordable" housing will only cost more millions over the years.. And already, the developer (profit motive) wants $12 million more ???

Dump the whold darn project. Look out council folks.. an election draws neigh.

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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 8, 2011 at 4:23 pm

I don't necessarily agree with the project, but it's amazing to me how people can make comments on an article that is right above and get so many facts wrong. The people renting won't be making $96K per year, but only 30, 40, or 50% of that. And the developer doesn't want $12 million more, only $4.4 million more. $12.5 is the total.

I do wonder about the value of the deal for the city. If the city just gave the rent subsidy to people directly, it might cost about $500,000 per year (approx $800 rent savings per unit per month * 51 units). If you invested the $12.5 million in government bonds paying 4%, you would generate the $500,000 in interest each year. If you also consider the value of the land that is being tied up for at least 65 years, this looks like a bad financial deal.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 8, 2011 at 4:45 pm

MV already has enough affordable housing! Stop it already and let Los Altos take up the slack.

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Posted by wasteful
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 8, 2011 at 9:38 pm

@Parent... OK, lets start with South Los Altos, and since there is no public transit nearby, lets get a bus line running through as well... maybe right down your street? Its always nice to propose someone else do their part. I think it is all nonsense. Either provide direct subsidies or do nothing. There is plenty of affordable rental property in MV, but none as nice as what is being proposed. Heck, I'd like a nice cottage in Carmel by the Sea, but I can't afford it... my income is only about 30% what is required to afford that. Don't they care about affordable housing? Where can I sign up?

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Posted by OMV resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 8, 2011 at 11:17 pm

I love how all the knee-jerk reactionary comments come out of the woodwork when an article like this is published.

Some people claim that it's the 'greedy developer' jacking up their price - evidently not even reading the portion of the article that explains that the increase in city contribution is due to tougher-than-anticipated competition for a tax credit.

Some people simply get the figures completely wrong, as Neighbor points out.

And some people trot out the same old tired arguments about density and rentals killing our city. To cap things off, we've got 'Spaghetti Freddie' claiming that the city is creating a "slum"... and warning us that "More density means a growing need for more cops, more fire, more everything, and the revenue increase will not cover the cost increase." Spaghetti Freddie - I suppose that you and your household don't use any of those services, right? Or it is that (by your logic) everyone who moved into Mountain View after you is a drain on the city, while you and other long-timers are not?

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Posted by DCS
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 9, 2011 at 7:28 am

@OMV - I suppose you have theis attitude because this development didn't directly drain your savings and demoralize you. I have been working since I was 16/worked while obtaining my BS in engineering/worked while obtaining my MS in engineering all to build a future. I lost my entire down payment on my condo that sits directly next to the proposed development. Granted I cannot decouple my losses from the recession, but still the development is partly responible if not all. The development was not disclosed to me when I bought, and I have proof the seller's agent knew about it, I really want to sue her, but that takes $$$$ that I don't have.

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Posted by ann
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2011 at 9:09 am

spaghetti freddie...right on...something bad happens to politicians brains when they get too much power...

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Posted by MV
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 9, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Where is this located. There are tons of apartment complexes in Mountain View. Every drove down California street towards Palo Alto, what a sight. I wonder why the city is not trying to improve the existing high density housing and adding more

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Posted by MV Pride
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm

I think there's a surprising level of selfishness being displayed by the comments here. Affordable housing projects aren't supposed to benefit all of you in your million dollar homes; it's a sacrifice those of us fortunate enough to live in Mountain View make to help those in need. That said, I agree with Councilman Inks (who voted against the project) when he said he "would prefer housing policy that creates more affordable housing rather than a few gold-plated units for people who happen to win a housing lottery."

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Posted by Spaghetti Freddie
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 9, 2011 at 3:15 pm

@OMV- Maybe you missed the part about high density. You see, more people per square mile require more city services per square mile. If you take an acre of land and divide it into 8 equal parcels, then build 8, 1200 sq/ft houses, you will roughly have, say, 40 people living on that acre. Now if you take that same acre, and build 50 condos, you will have roughly, say, 100 people living on that same acre. One hundred people will necessarily use more city services than 40. That's just math. You are gambling that those additional people will make up the difference through sales tax, basically. Great theory when the bubble is inflating, catastrophic when it bursts.

Of course I enjoy the use of city services. Certainly, people that have lived in this city, particularly property owners, for a longer length of time have done more to build it than those who recently arrived, but that's not my reasoning. Government revenue is finite, again mathematical. Which means that there is only so much to go around. The question here is (as always): does this project bring in more to the city than it costs the city? I don't think it does. I want stable community members in the town I live in, not children chasing stock options.

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Posted by DCS
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 9, 2011 at 5:03 pm

@MV Pride - I don't think you understand the situation clearly. The BMR is going to sit next to the chepaest condo complex in downtown Mountain View. The BMR is hurting those at the lower end of the spectrum who can afford to purchase a home. It is not affecting anyone with a million dollar home. The BMR will sit next to ONE comlex and ONE complex only, noone else will be affected.

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

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