Survey says parcel tax would fail

Council to weigh other options for raising affordable housing funds

Voters would not pass a parcel tax to replace the city's lost affordable housing revenues, according to a new survey.

As the city's rents become more unaffordable for many of the city's workers, 400 Mountain View voters were reached by phone by Godbe Research and asked if they would support a property tax that would help the city pay for affordable housing development. With support from 67 percent of voters needed to pass, the survey found that only 53 percent expressed support for a $59 parcel tax while 59 percent expressed support when given more information.

Support peaked at 66.2 percent when the tax was decreased to $29, which would raise only $551,000 a year from the city's 19,000 or so parcels.

The city paid $15,000 for the survey.

Council members were did not express support for moving ahead with such a parcel tax in a study session Tuesday. Instead members wrestled with other fee options and a philosophical question: who should pay for the city's affordable housing?

Only three members supported a new fee on rental housing -- Mike Kasperzak, Ronit Bryant and Laura Macias -- while Margaret Abe-Koga and Jac Siegel held out for more information and options. Libertarian council members Tom Means and John Inks participated little in the discussion as neither support subsidizing affordable housing.

Abe-Koga and Siegel found themselves in the hot seat, as Mayor Kasperzak probed them to find out what could make them pass a fee on rental housing. With 1,250 apartment units in the pipeline, the proposed fee equal to 3 percent of a project's value could raise $12 million if the council acts soon.

Abe-Koga was hesitant to bring back a fee on rental housing because "the root" of the problem was the increasing number of jobs in the city, she said. She has expressed concern before that fees on housing development are passed onto renters, while others say it is passed onto selling landowners who have seen big increases in their property values in recent years.

"We really have to look at this more carefully," said Abe-Koga said. "I don't think folks know that given all the commercial development we are expecting we will generate $9 million from a housing impact fee. I just feel more comfortable with that. I see the direct tie."

Kasperzak and others want to replace major sources of affordable housing revenue that have recently been lost. The city's previous 10 percent fee on rental housing development was eliminated by a court decision known as "Palmer v. the City of Los Angeles." Another source was the downtown revitalization district, which the state eliminated last month, killing a relatively stable source of about $1.2 million a year in affordable housing funds.

Despite the lost revenue, city staff members say that affordable housing revenues will rise in the next few years, thanks to a surge in office development proposals for the Whisman area. The city has received $37 million in affordable housing revenues since 2001, averaging $3 million a year. But with commercial housing impact fees making up almost half of affordable housing revenues -- after almost five years of contributing almost nothing -- revenues are estimated at over $5 million in 2012, nearly $8 million in 2013 and just over $7 million in 2014.

Even with the growing revenue it is unclear whether the city can meet a growing demand for affordable housing as rents are reportedly raised around town as new tech job growth brings in new residents. Downtown resident Bruce Karney told the council about a senior who had his rent raised by $200 and said he would probably have to leave the city. Resident Jarrett Mullen said he had spoken with employees at REI who said they could never afford to live in Mountain View and instead commute from Gilroy.

"We need to provide some options for people who aren't just working in high-tech," Mullen said.

The city has been unable to spend much of its affordable housing funds until recently, when it put out a "Notice of Funding Availability" to solicit projects. Council members seemed to have mixed opinions about the city's ability to spend the funds. Abe-Koga said the funds needed to be "spread out" to more people.

Since 2006, the city has approved 275 affordable 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, which alone cost $12 million.

Thanks to NOFA, in November the council was able to spend another $10 million to support three affordable housing projects totaling 85 units, including 52 efficiency studios and 25 homes for disabled people.

At least another $8 million is still available.


Like this comment
Posted by Andrew
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 7, 2012 at 6:13 pm

If the voters [albeit through a proxy as this was a survey] don't want to pay for this, then why doesn't City Council just stop and listen? Next issue.

Like this comment
Posted by George
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 7, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Where in the heck (no profanity) does the City Council find the right to charge the city wih creating or spending millions of dollars (paid by the local owners) ?
My Gosh (no profanity), if one can't afford the rents, then one moves on to somewhere where they can afford to live.
Thia Socialist mentality of our (and many councils, legislators and Feds) that somehow thinks we must give everyone a place to live is a bunch of B.S....
QUIT this crap about having to finance housing for the "POOR" (ie: folks earning less than 60 or so K per year).

Get the hell out of the housing market... that is NOT the job of a City Council.

Like this comment
Posted by For hire
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 7, 2012 at 9:01 pm

"The city paid $15,000 for the survey."

Sh**, I would of done it for $7,500 and I would have got better results.

Like this comment
Posted by Dominick
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 7, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Council members should not be asking "Who should pay for the city's afordable housing?" The question should be "Should we have affordable housing?" Which was answered by the survey, NO.

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 8, 2012 at 6:41 am

They should impose rent control and watch then watch all their beloved high-rise rental apartment developers flee!

Like this comment
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 8, 2012 at 9:18 am

I've commented before, I am one of the majority supporting either a $59 or a $29 parcel tax for this civic purpose. The Franklin project in particular supported two school teacher families to own condo-townhouses and live in this area (not moving out to the Central Valley). The NO NEW TAXES commentators here have two council members (Means and Inks) who effectively support their views [I usually find Mr. Inks more informed and consistent].
I think this council majority is grappling with the issue of the functions of 'civil' government. Like we have taxes to support roads and car transportation use [I know of no toll roads in our city or county], it is within the rights of the city to operate taxes for this housing purpose. But they need 2/3 election support for a new tax.
I fully support Mike, Ronit and Laura on this issue [hey - show up and talk at enough council meetings, and the council members start to know your first name].

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm

This must be an early April Fool story. There is so much wrong with the concept that it falls way beyond absurd. Trying to repeal the economic law of supply and demand will not have satisfying results!
And really, $37.50 per person surveyed?

Like this comment
Posted by Nick
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Looks like terms for Mike and Laura are up in January 2013 -- less than a year away... vote them out! Unfortunately we're stuck with Ronit for a bit longer.

$15,000 for a survey to figure out something obvious? What a waste of tax dollars.

Like this comment
Posted by JOHN
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 8, 2012 at 9:12 pm

What a waste of money,
but a point was made, why not have rent control? But yes the coveted developer money would dry up.

So the the solution is to cram 1200 apartments into the city and charge the homeowners a "fee".

Seen the traffic on San Antonio lately? get ready for more.

Like this comment
Posted by Realtor
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 9, 2012 at 6:07 am

Rent control is a great idea, only the real purpose of BMR funds is for these psuedo liberals is to soothe their conscience with a token model low income housing development, preferrable green in design, that they can all point to and slobber over. In reality such developments would not even serve .01% of those seeking relief in the housing market. As far a tax, it's all just a shell game. The real winners are the developers.

Like this comment
Posted by AAA
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 9, 2012 at 10:13 pm

I'm sorry, I really don't understand the push for having the city pay for affordable housing. I think Mountain View has many affordable housing options. There are many modest but nice apartments off Rengstorff & California Ave. MV has several mobile home parks, and the city has two new affordable housing projects! That seems like a lot to me.

A 1 bed/1 bath apt in MV rents for $1300/mo. With 2 working adults that's $650 per person per month. Even at minimum wage ($8/hr) working full time you'll make $1300 per month before taxes. This sounds very much like how I lived right after college. It's totally workable. If you can't manage the $1300/mo alone, get a roommate! That's what I did, while living here in Mountain View.

The REI employee who commutes from Gilroy does so by choice (though may have said otherwise in the hopes of getting some help). If they really wanted to live here they could. It would mean sacrificing other things like a new car, an iPhone, iPad, going out in the evening and drinking with friends, but life is about making choices. If I can make it work, I don't see why others can't.

If affordable housing were really such a problem here, there wouldn't be another story in this same paper about 40% of the student population in MV being non-English learners (mainly low-income Latinos). 40%! Sounds to me like a large group of generally low-income people are still able to live here, so what's the problem?!

I think this issue is dead and we really need to move on to more important things (like ways to help bridge the learning divide between the children in our community by improving the schools for all).

Like this comment
Posted by AAA
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 10, 2012 at 10:15 am

By the way, here's a really interesting read for those of you in this discussion proposing rent control for Mountain View. I think that's a terrible idea. I have a number of high-income friends in SF who choose to rent because they can live at a fraction of the cost (and even have maintenance paid for by the landlord) rather than purchase their own home. They then are able to invest that money elsewhere (or buy vacation homes in Hawaii).

Rent control is NOT a good solution as it does little to help those who really need it. I think tax credits/deductions are the best way to target truly low-income people and give them the extra help they need.

How Rent Control Subsidizes the Super Rich
Web Link

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