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Marin housing forum previews massive bond measure (Marin IJ)

Posted on Category Press Coverage

A building permit is posted at 825 Drake Ave. in Marin City on Sept. 20, 2023. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)

By  | rhalstead@marinij.com | Marin Independent Journal
PUBLISHED:  | UPDATED: 

An affordable housing forum in San Rafael outlined a prospective statewide bond measure that could raise $10 billion to $20 billion to create more homes in the Bay Area.

“This could provide between 35,000 to 80,000 new homes across the nine-county region,” Somaya Abdelgany, an official at the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority, told nearly 200 people at Dominican University of California.

Abdelgany estimated that the measure would provide $352 million to $704 million for projects in Marin County alone.

Abdelgany was one of five speakers at the Sept. 14 event, which was organized by Canal Alliance, Community Action Marin, North Marin Community Services, Legal Aid of Marin and the university.

The other speakers were Leah Simon-Weisberg, legal director of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment Institute; Kim Pipkin, director of the Black Developers Forum; Ricardo Huerta Niño, senior initiative officer for the Great Communities Collaborative; and Alex Schafran, author of “The Road to Resegregation.”

“For those who haven’t heard of the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority or BAHFA,” Abdelgany said, “it is the first regional housing finance authority in California whose primary function and power is to raise billions of dollars to address affordable housing in the Bay Area.”

Created by the state legislature in 2019, BAHFA shares the same board of directors as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and is also guided by the Association of Bay Area Governments, or ABAG.

The state Department of Housing and Community Development has mandated that the Bay Area foster the development of 180,000 new residences over the next eight years. ABAG has assigned Marin County and its municipalities 14,000 of those homes.

Marin jurisdictions have submitted housing elements to the state outlining their plans for compliance. However, there is concern about whether there will be sufficient funding for the housing to get built.

Marin County planners say it has the highest per-unit cost of development in the Bay Area — more than $900,000 for affordable and multifamily residences.

Abdelgany also talked about a related initiative, which is also slated for the November 2024 ballot: Assembly Constitutional Amendment 1, or ACA-1. The measure proposes lowering the threshold to approve new special taxes and bonds for affordable housing and public infrastructure projects from two-thirds approval to 55%.

“This would really improve our chances of being able to generate funds for affordable housing across the state,” Abdelgany said.

BAHFA’s proposed bond measure would be paid for with a property tax increase. According to the organization, the bond would boost property taxes by about $10.62 per $100,000 of the assessed value. That means the owner of a home with a $1 million assessed value would pay about $100 per year.

“Eighty percent of the funding that is raised goes directly back to the county of origin based on assessed value,” Abdelgany said.

She said bond proceeds could be used to build homes that are priced to be affordable for four-person families making up to $210,000 per year, “but are really envisioned to prioritize our very-low-income goals.”

Fifty-two percent of bond revenue would be used to produce new housing. Fifteen percent would go toward preserving existing deed-restricted affordable housing, and 5% would be earmarked for tenant protections such as legal services, rental assistance, relocation, tenant education and displacement data collection.

“Then unallocated funding can be spent on anything around affordable housing or housing related uses,” Abdelgany said,

ACA-1 has not been received well by Marin tax hawks.

Mimi Willard, president of the Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers, a Marin advocacy group, said ACA-1 would also make it easier for sales and use taxes to pass if they claim to fund affordable housing or public infrastructure.

“The net impact of ACA-1 is that we could be looking at 80% of all bond measures being passed and also a much larger proportion of sales and parcel taxes,” Willard wrote in an email. “With these changed odds, there will be a tidal wave of big new tax measures, possibly beginning as soon as November 2024. This is long-term catastrophic for Californians.”

The speakers at the forum stressed the need to protect residents from displacement and preserve affordable housing, in addition to producing new housing.

“None of these policies are going to work on their own,” said Simon-Weisberg, who heads the Berkeley’s rent stabilization board.

Simon-Weisberg said more and more jurisdictions across the state are adopting rental stabilization ordinances.

“In 2015, there were 15 jurisdictions in California that had rent stabilization, there are now over 40,” she said.

Schafran said that in addressing the shortage of housing in Marin, it will be important not to repeat the mistakes of the past, which resulted in a lack of economic and racial integration.

“We can do this in a way that is community based,” Schafran said, “that is more democratic, that’s more racially inclusive.”

Niño said, “If you’re not doing all hands on deck, it’s not going to be as effective.”

“The idea is to raise the floor for everybody, especially distressed communities,” Niño said. “There’s enormous potential for this county to actually lead, to be a model.”

Pipkin said the Black Developers Forum she works for was a product of dual tragedies: George Floyd’s killing and COVID-19.

“My organization wanted to have a Black pool, a Black fund that was dedicated solely to Black developers developing in their own community.” Pipkin said. “The state can’t do that, so we have a BIPOC fund.” BIPOC means Black, Indigenous and people of color.

“I am a pro-business and a pro-development person,” Pipkin said. “I think most people are reasonable, and subsequently you can do business with reasonable people. It’s usually the outliers that you have challenges with.”

Nevertheless, Pipkin expressed some skepticism regarding whether Marin is eager for increased racial integration.

“Are you ready for us to be in the room and go to the same schools and shop in your districts and live in your community?” she asked. “Because honestly, I don’t see it happening.”

Used with permission by the Marin Independent Journal.
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