Bay Area rides af­ford­able hous­ing wave after midterms

Ad­vo­cates cel­e­brate $6 bil­lion in state-wide bonds, mil­lions more in lo­cal bonds and taxes

The Mercury News - - Local News - By Marisa Ken­dall mk­endall@ba­yare­anews­group.com

Af­ford­able hous­ing ad­vo­cates may not have got­ten ev­ery­thing they wanted on their Elec­tion Day wish list, but they’re cheer­ing a se­ries of vic­to­ries this week that may help ease the Bay Area’s hous­ing crunch.

That in­cludes $6 bil­lion in state-wide hous­ing bonds and hun­dreds of mil­lions more in lo­cal bonds and taxes.

“I think over­all, it’s prob­a­bly an A-,” Matt Re­gan, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of pub­lic pol­icy for the Bay Area Coun­cil, said of the pro­hous­ing re­sults. “That’s not bad. I’ll take that.”

Still, some mea­sures are too close to call, and oth­ers went down in de­feat. In San Jose, for ex­am­ple, the hous­ing de­part­ment was count­ing on a $450 mil­lion bond to bring the city one step closer to its goal of build­ing 10,000 af­ford­able homes by 2022. But the mea­sure was fall­ing short Fri­day. Sim­i­lar mea­sures in Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa were re­jected.

Ma­jor bonds are al­ways dif­fi­cult to pass, be­cause it’s tough to con­vince vot­ers to ap-

prove spend­ing such large sums of money, Re­gan said. And he sus­pects San Jose vot­ers may have been par­tic­u­larly re­luc­tant this elec­tion, be­cause they ap­proved a $950 mil­lion af­ford­able hous­ing bond in Santa Clara County just two years ago.

Ar­guably the big­gest hous­ing win was the pass­ing of Propo­si­tions 1 and 2, which to­gether au­tho­rize $6 bil­lion in bonds to fund home loans and af­ford­able hous­ing con­struc­tion for low-in­come fam­i­lies, vet­er­ans and peo­ple with men­tal ill­ness.

Lo­cally, sev­eral cities had strong pro-af­ford­able hous­ing and pro-renter re­sults. Oak­lan­ders voted to raise $10 mil­lion a year for home­less ser­vices and dump­ing cleanup by tax­ing va­cant prop­er­ties, and to make it harder for land­lords to evict ten­ants from cer­tain build­ings. Berke­ley

res­i­dents passed a $135 mil­lion af­ford­able hous­ing bond. San Fran­cisco voted in a big-busi­ness tax ex­pected to raise $300 mil­lion a year for af­ford­able hous­ing and home­less ser­vices, Moun­tain View passed a sim­i­lar mea­sure to pad its gen­eral fund, which could help fund hous­ing, and East Palo Alto ap­proved an of­fice tax that will partly go to­ward fund­ing af­ford­able hous­ing.

A con­tro­ver­sial move to al­low cities to ex­pand rent con­trol was a re­sound­ing fail­ure, draw­ing am­biva­lent re­ac­tions. Some hous­ing ex­perts were dis­ap­pointed, say­ing Propo­si­tion 10 was needed to help renters sur­vive the over­heated mar­ket. But oth­ers breathed a sigh of re­lief, say­ing the mea­sure would have de­pressed new rental con­struc­tion.

In the South Bay, af­ford­able hous­ing ad­vo­cates were smarting as San Jose’s $450 mil­lion af­ford­able hous­ing bond strug­gled — gar­ner­ing 62 per­cent of the vote, but fall­ing short

of the 66 per­cent needed to pass. The city could have turned that money into about 3,600 new af­ford­able homes, said Jacky Mo­ralesFer­rand, San Jose’s hous­ing di­rec­tor.

“With­out that, we’re go­ing to have a large gap,” she said, “and we’re go­ing to be very chal­lenged in meet­ing the 10,000-unit goal.”

But even the losses — the large hous­ing bond in San Jose and oth­ers in Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa that needed two-thirds of the vote to pass — won sup­port from a ma­jor­ity of vot­ers.

“We’ve seen an in­creas­ing re­al­iza­tion from folks that we need to build more hous­ing,” said Ernest Brown, a vol­un­teer co-ex­ec­u­tive of YIMBY group East Bay for Every­one.

In Bris­bane, a mea­sure that would al­low the city just south of San Fran­cisco to dou­ble its hous­ing sup­ply held onto a nar­row lead, ahead by fewer than 80 votes.

At the state level, Prop. 1 and 2 alone could dou­ble the amount of af­ford­able

hous­ing sup­ported by state funds, which will help jump-start Bay Area de­vel­op­ment, said Kevin Zwick, CEO of Hous­ing Trust Sil­i­con Val­ley.

“We’re go­ing to see that over the next few years,” he said. “We’re go­ing to see new sup­port­ive homes for Cal­i­for­ni­ans liv­ing with men­tal ill­ness. We’re go­ing to see more af­ford­able homes for peo­ple who need them most. $6 bil­lion — I mean, that’s a ma­jor state­ment that hous­ing’s im­por­tant to Cal­i­for­nia.”

Hous­ing also drove many of the Bay Area’s lo­cal coun­cil races, with mixed re­sults. About half of the 30 lo­cal can­di­dates en­dorsed by the Bay Area’s pro-de­vel­op­ment YIMBY groups were vic­to­ri­ous or held leads Fri­day.

In Cu­per­tino, where a bat­tle is rag­ing over plans to turn the de­funct Vallco

Mall into a mas­sive hous­ing, shop­ping and of­fice de­vel­op­ment, one of the lead­ing voices op­pos­ing those plans was cruis­ing to­ward a seat on the City Coun­cil. Liang Chao, founder of slow-growth group Bet­ter Cu­per­tino, was ahead along­side in­cum­bent Mayor Darcy Paul, who came un­der fire ear­lier this year for say­ing the city’s hous­ing short­age isn’t “dire.” Coun­cil­woman Savita Vaid­hyanathan, who has sup­ported build­ing hous­ing at Vallco, was poised to snag the third open seat.

The dy­ing mall’s fate was the main is­sue driv­ing the City Coun­cil race this year, Chao said. As de­vel­op­ers pushed ahead with plans to build more than 2,000 homes on the site, “a crazy big chunk of the com­mu­nity didn’t feel like their opin­ions were be­ing re­spected,” she said.

In Moun­tain View, vot­ers ousted Mayor Lenny Siegel, an out­spo­ken hous­ing ad­vo­cate. But as all three coun­cil mem­bers ahead at the polls Fri­day sup­port Google-backed plans to build nearly 10,000 homes in North Bayshore, Siegel sus­pects his loss had more to do with an­other hous­ing-re­lated prob­lem — the scores of home­less res­i­dents liv­ing in RVs parked up and down Moun­tain View streets.

“I think that I lost votes be­cause I pushed back when peo­ple crit­i­cized the ve­hi­cle-dwellers,” Siegel said. “I called them in­tol­er­ant. So they turned around and blamed me for the fact that we’ve got peo­ple liv­ing in RVs.”

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