In a recent article about cities risking uncertified housing elements (“Marin cities risk ‘builder’s remedy’ over housing plan delays,” Jan. 16), the Californians for Homeownership group is identified as a nonprofit, but it is more than that. I don’t consider it to be a low-income housing advocacy group, as the context suggests.
It has a record of lobbying for the California Association of Realtors and the building industry, frequently by suing cities without certified housing elements. In my opinion, its leaders are interested in production of salable products, especially the units designated as “above moderate income” built into the state numbers. In Marin County, that 37.06% is mandated and profitable.
While there is real need in the lower-income categories, there is no current or projected shortage of market-rate (aka expensive) residences. If this 37.06% of the mandate was dropped, the housing elements would be more reasonable (though still greatly overshooting the needs of projected population growth as defined by the California Department of Finance).
The California Department of Housing and Community Development’s bloating of the numbers, in concert with more than 70 laws delivering draconian punishments, is leading to stresses across the state. It’s no wonder that at least seven cities here will likely fail their certification deadlines, even after collectively paying millions of tax dollars to consultants to produce them.
Cities and counties are set up to fail. Even if they issue permits for all of the units in their housing elements, if they aren’t built — for any reason — it will be the cities that shoulder the punishments. Private, profit-oriented developers hold the cards; their decisions to not build will trigger a future free-for-all of development, with very few restrictions, increased density and other bonuses, largely in the market rate category.
— Amy Kalish, Mill Valley
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