How affordable housing goes in Marin

News Pointer  April 5–11, 1989

 One Point of View

Dwayne Hunn, Community contributor

Often Individuals claim to be for “pro-affordable” housing but against the density of every proposed development. They claim that density causes traffic. Sometimes that’s what I read between the lines of the “pro-­affordable housing” Coastal Post.

Affordable housing in the County is a joke. it IS an endangered specie. There isn’t much of it now, and there will be less in the future… Affordable housing does not ‘result as a byproduct of housing construction. It certainly hasn’t to date. It must be a separate goal with, clear, creative and unusual strategies to make it achievable.

(1-16-89 Costal Post editorial)

Without widespread support successful strategies often take money. In Mann widespread support for affordable housing is usually only verbalized. Where support counts the most in the production of affordable housing is before city councils. The support that appears too often before City Councils is that of NIMBYS (Not-in-My-Back-Yard).

Let’s take an  example of  what  NIMBYs do to projects throughout the county.

Years ago a not-so-attractive average acre of land in Marin sold for  $100,000. That land was zoned for 17 units per acre. Before that builder turned one shovel of dirt, the price of each of those units was 17 units divided into his $100,000 land cost, or $5,900.

Under that zoning this for-profit builder would build 2 units of housing affordable to households who earn $35,000 or less, which was direly needed by those who commuted through this community  searching for afford­able shelter. By just spreading his land cost to the remaining 15 units his per unit land recovery cost only went to $6,600.

What typically happens to projects like this? The NIMBYS ‘fight to reduce  it to 5 units per acre. When they are successful, Which Is often, the cost of each unit Jumps to $2O,000, before a shovel of earth is turned.

Now just because the builder’s land cost has been increased 300% does not mean that his infrastructure costs like sewers, streets, utilities, and fees have been reduced by anything. Usually the NIMBYs have drawn out the approval process  for a year, two or more and this has inflated  construction and financing costs.

Now we all know that in good times in healthy economic markets the big car companies feel safer making profits by selling fewer big cars rather than many small ones. Marin is a healthy economic market because a lot of people enjoying  good economic times desire to live here.

Understanding the economic principles of the auto market, the Law of Supply & Demand, and the fact that 3 out of 5 of his fellow builder/developers are out of the business in 7 years, is it so difficult to understand why he builds a lavish home? principles of the auto market, the Law of Supply‘& Demand, and the fact that 3 out of 5 of his fellow builder/developers are put of the business In 7 years, it isn’t so difficult to understand why he builds a lavish home?

Now the numbers used as examples above happen over and over. The numbers were also happening just up the road in Marin. Two Novato council members supported by a petition carriers want to reduce what was once 3550 residential units to 1000 or less on 215 residential acres where per acre cost was about $102,000.

Very few people have a backyard at Hamilton Field. At Hamilton Field, Berg, Revoir, and Howard try to address community housing, traffic, and employment concerns in an integrated mixed-use development on blighted, stagnant property, on a railroad line, near the Bay, far from a freeway from which you can’t even see their project.

For NIMBYs backyards spread a long way. NIMBY’s must take a great deal of credit for FCFC–Freeway Congestion For Commuters

Dwayne Hunn works on affordable housing projects as Assistant Executive Director of Novato Ecumenical Housing.)

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