Affordable Housing

Board of Supervisors

The State of California requires each city and county to adopt a Housing Element as part of their General Plan, which must be reviewed and certified by the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). The State mandates that Housing Elements must be updated.

The City of Novato's Housing Element City of Novato Housing Element only applies to the city limits within Novato. The County does not have any jurisdiction over the City's Housing Element. The County is required to complete its own housing element which includes the unincorporated land in Novato and the rest of the County.

It is important to remember:

  • Affordable housing sites listed in Housing Elements are potential sites. Site identification demonstrates that the jurisdiction has zoning regulations that can accommodate affordable housing. Neither the existing owner, nor subsequent owners, will be forced to sell their property or build affordable housing on that site, nor are they restricted as to who they can sell to. Affordable housing becomes one eligible use for the property

  • If a land owner is interested in building affordable housing on a site identified in the Housing Element, the land owner must proceed through the local jurisdiction's normal building and approval process that is used for all development projects. This includes submitting an application and required plans, acquiring necessary permits, receiving design review and planning approval, and holding public hearings.

Legislative Priorities and Efforts

Many Novatans have been frustrated with the ability to meet state-mandated housing requirements based on HCD guidelines and restrictions that local jurisdictions must follow. Many residents, including myself, would like to see more flexibility for local jurisdictions to receive state housing element credits. Legislative changes are the best avenue to achieve this.

Each year the Board of supervisors approves a Legislative Plan for the County. The plan serves as a guide for Marin County legislative initiatives and priorities for the coming year. Since 2011, I have asked that our Board include language in our Legislative Plans to support/explore amendments to relevant sections of the California Government Code or other administrative rules or regulations that would allow for a broader range of options and flexibility for local jurisdictions to receive state housing element credits including administrative rules or regulations that would allow a broader range of affordable housing options to be eligible to receive increased housing element credit

In 2014, we made some progress with these efforts with the passage of Assembly Bill 1537 (Levine), changing Unincorporated Marin, the City of Novato and the City of San Rafael’s Housing Element default density from 30 units per acre to 20 units per acre. This was an effort I began working on in 2011 with Former Assemblyman Jared Huffman and when Assemblyman Levine was elected, I continued the conversation and effort with him.

Preserving & Enhancing Housing Options

The Board of Supervisors has taken many steps the past several years to preserve and enhance affordable housing opportunities in Marin. With housing prices at an all-time high, vacancy rates at historic lows, and limited opportunities for development of new multifamily housing, we need to find ways to prevent displacement of lower-income residents.

Some key initiatives we have adopted include:

  • Secured existing housing stock for conversion to affordable housing, including: 27 units at the Piper Court Apartments in Fairfax, 8 units in Stinson Beach, and 20 units in Forest Knolls. This is an ongoing priority and we will continue to look for additional opportunities.

  • To expand rental opportunities for Section 8 voucher holders in Marin, the County and the Marin Housing Authority partnered up to launch a Landlord Partnership Program. The goal of the program is: expand affordable housing rental opportunities for people with Section 8 vouchers by making landlord participation in the program more attractive, feasible and streamlined. The program address landlord participation concerns by offering financial assurances including security deposit assistance, vacancy loss coverage, and a loss mitigation pool. In addition, a “landlord liaison” staff position was established, providing for a 24-hour hotline to participating landlords needing assistance.

  • Adopted a Source of Income Protection ordinance which prohibits discrimination against renters based on third party rental assistance, including: Section 8 vouchers, Veteran’s Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers, Shelter Plus Care vouchers and Housing for People with AIDS. This ordinance is a meaningful step to expanding our fair housing goals and alleviates some of the barriers residents face when seeking housing.

  • To help address the shortage of affordable rental units in Marin and to encourage the creation of room rentals within existing residences, the Board of Supervisors voted to waive building and planning fees over the next year (until 12/31/18) for such rentals, called junior accessory dwelling units.

Wyndover Apartments, Novato

Several years ago, concerns were raised about Wyndover Apartments (Wyndover) on Diablo Avenue. Wyndover is not managed or owned by the County of Marin or the Marin Housing Authority (MHA); however, MHA does have Housing Choice Voucher holders (Section 8) living at Wyndover.

As a result of the increased awareness in late 2010 of crime and management issues at Wyndover, I requested MHA to use the tools we have available at the County to help create a safer and better living environment. Actions we took included:

  • MHA discontinued paying the owner for new Housing Choice Voucher holders
  • MHA terminated assistance for 4 tenants in 2009 and 1 in 2010 - thereby helping the owner/manager to evict.
  • MHA coordinated more closely with local police regarding information sharing, daily crime screening, and coordination of crime responses.
  • MHA leaders met with the owner/manager in December, 2010 to coordinate improvements such as parking permits, security patrol, gate lock installation, increased inspections, and implementation of a neighborhood watch program.
  • MHA installed a more state-of-the-art FBI background check system
  • MHA assisted the Novato Police and owners to create tangible results, including things like: externally locked entrance gates, a parking program, quarterly inspections of apartments, and improved lighting - to name a few.