Affordable Housing

Affordable Housing
Affordable Housing for Whom? When and Where?
Dear Readers,
The Wall St. Journal reported March-dated lumber futures are at record prices after climbing more than 50% in 14 months. Tariffs on steel and aluminum would further inflate construction costs. Bay Area construction trades are in short supply even with workers flocking in from other regions.  For all practical purposes most of the Bay Area is built-out and current land prices are escalating like the 1849 gold rush. State and federal subsidies for low-income housing are limited and are unlikely to lower housing costs for the most needy. To add insult to misery, the Journal reported that beer is about to get pricier with 10% tax on steel and aluminum cans…. A penny cost increase on 115 billion steel and aluminum drink cans amount to “a lot of money” according the Can Manufacturers Institute.
Bottom line: We are amused and discouraged by the political banter about housing affordability. Unless our political leaders are divining mystical powers, we don’t see how they can successfully misdirect the public with false promises about housing costs.

Weiner too fast for Palo Alto

A state bill that would increase zoning densities, relax parking requirements and curb cities’ abilities to limit building heights in transit-rich areas is proving to be a tough sell in Palo Alto, where city officials took a firm 8:1 vote against the proposed legislation.

Ed. Comment: Mt. View City Council, many other cities and the League of California Cities are skeptical, too!


Going where angels fear to tread?
No one has the exact same definition of the California dream. Ask the 39 million current Californians about what the dream should be, and aside from most of us agreeing that the daily temperature should dip no colder than the mid-‘50s, you’ll likely get 39 million very different answers.

But the so-called “Golden Era” of California—that faded Technicolor image of a magical time in the 1960s when as soon as you crossed the state line Ronald Reagan would hand deliver you a two-story house and 2.5 children and tiki-themed patio furniture—still seeps into our expectations of life here.

Ed Comment: Very thoughtful commentary and good use of your time. This story is part of The California Dream project, a statewide nonprofit media collaboration focused on issues of economic opportunity, quality-of-life, and the future of the California Dream.


Demanding a roof AND a way to get to work

In a five-county poll of 900 voters, 64 percent favor building “significant quantities of new housing,” and 53 percent would support new construction even if it changed the character of their neighborhoods. In another surprise, the voters surveyed were in favor of all kinds of new housing production.

But there’s a catch — and it’s a big one. Less than half of voters were in favor of new housing if it adds more commuters to our roads and transit systems. Just 30 percent were willing to.

One necessary solution is for the federal government to pass a serious, bipartisan national infrastructure bill. The Bay Area has multiple major transportation projects in the pipeline that simply won’t get off the ground without massive federal investment.

Ed. Comment: We are not confident whatsoever that state or federal government has the will or means to push housing costs downward. In fact, trends now point to escalating inflation of construction material, land and labor costs.


Stack and pack on steroids
Inside a cavernous building where the U.S. Navy built WWII ships a housing developer is battling a crisis closer to home: more housing. Modular construction may address these problems: Developer claims 20 percent less costs and 40 percent less time than standard construction.

Ed. Comment: Sorry, this may be subscriber only article. Try Googling “Rick Holliday and Factory OS” for alternate news sources.


Tiny meeting grew large
San Jose’s ‘tiny homes’ meeting was postponed to find bigger home. San Jose’s bridge housing program, also known as its “tiny homes” for the homeless initiative, was always controversial. But it moves forward slowly.

Ed. Comment: This article may be subscription only. We give San Jose our strongest shoutout for pushing this concept forward.


Feeling the heat in Los Altos
Don’t look now, but Los Altos is feeling the heat from the state as the desperate call for more affordable housing – grows louder and louder.
The city has long been established as an affluent, primarily single-family home mecca with generous 10,000-square-foot lots. It also has long since been built out.
So what to do when a city like Los Altos is confronted with 15 bills approved over the past year that push for more affordable units through higher-density housing?

Ed. Comment: Los Altos, you are not alone. Everyone is looking for answers. If you are interested in a broader survey of citizen opinions, contact city officials in Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Redwood City or San Carlo…..or click here for summary.


Desperate times for disparate people
VTA says it must spy on buses with Apple and Google workers after the companies refused to share that information. VTA’s six cameras are examining the impact of corporate bus fleets to improve vehicle flow on Highway 85, which is frequently jammed with traffic.
“The best we can do is spy on them in video cameras,” Adam Burger, the transit agency’s senior transportation planner. The agency said it asked companies for shuttle bus data through the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the Bay Area Council but did not receive it.

Ed. Comment: With collaboration like this, where are the Russians when we actually need them?


Feds pour SALT into homeowner tax wounds
Facing highest housing prices in the US, Bay Area residents are seeing tax benefits evaporate. New tax code strips typical San Jose homeowner of $5400 deductions this year…highest of any other metro area. The new tax law caps deductions for state and local taxes (SALT) at $10,000 and reduces mortgage interest deductions on new loans.
California Association of Realtor expects new tax plan to encourage buyers to stay put rather than sell, buy another pricier house and potentially lose thousands of dollars of mortgage interest deductions.


Housing Affordability for Whom?
A new housing project in Redwood City illustrates the near impossible quest for affordable housing. Read on.


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Editors Neilson Buchanan and John Guislin are unpaid, private citizens on the SF Peninsula and have no ties to developers or government organizations.

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