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The Real Truth About Affordable Housing

I am buying copies of Bob Silvestri's new book and sending them to the Novato City Council, as we are at a tipping point in Novato.

Bob Silvestri has written a superb book on the real truth on affordable housing in Marin. This is critical issue for Novato moving forward as this will impact the largest investment made, your house and its value.

Novato can not overbuild affordable housing without risking overloading the city services without sufficient tax base as well as driving down the value of housing that people have work so hard to buy and maintain as well as pay taxes.

Silvestri's book, "The Best Laid Plans: Our Planning and Affordable Housing Challenges in Marin" is a detailed review of the true story on affordable housing. I am buying copies and sending them to the Novato City Council, as we are at a tipping point in Novato.

From 1996 to 2006 Novato built 51.4 percent of all new affordable housing in Marin. The following are the details:

Novato built 56 percent of very-low-income housing of all of Marin. Belvedere, Corte Madera, Fairfax, Ross and San Anselmo had none.

Novato built 85 percent of the low-income housing in all of Marin. Belvedere, Corte Madera, Fairfax, Ross, San Anselmo and Sausalito built none.

Novato built 48 percent of the moderate-income housing in all of Marin. Corte Madera, Fairfax, Ross, San Anselmo, Sausalito and Tiburon built none.

Novato built 48 percent of the above-moderate-income housing in all of Marin and 146 percent more than required.

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Bob Silvestri November 04, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Thanks, Al. On Amazon: The book qualifies for their "4 or 3" promotional price and SuperSaver free shipping (with a minimum order): http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss/182-1618641-7088467?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=the+best+laid+plans%2Cbob+silvestri On Lulu: The book is offered at a 15% discounted price, for a limited time until Christmas: http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?keyWords=the+best+laid+plans%2Cbob+silvestri&categoryId=100501 And thanks to everyone who helped make this book possible and to everyone who's working to make local government more responsive to community voices.
Bob Ratto November 04, 2012 at 09:27 PM
...and thank you for writing it!...Just bought it on Amazon, will get by Tuesday, can't wait to read...
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 November 04, 2012 at 11:12 PM
This book is a must read. On page 24 Silvestri mentions "... greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings assumptions of SB375 and its progeny, the One Bay Area Plan...Furthermore, the vertical, high-density cities it envisions are not actually, in and of themselves, a sustainable solution." On page 112 Silvestri writes, "We need to nurture local voices and lead with innovation and community participation, not give up all we have worked so hard, for generations, to create. The vicious cycle of endless growth, urbanization and false hopes pinned on delusional social engineering and central planning have always failed and will always fail." Get involved, be part of the solution.
Al Dugan November 05, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Great choice of quotes Toni. The top down planning....the last great experiment at central planning was the failed Soviet government and even they don't do it any more.
M. Calwald November 05, 2012 at 05:00 AM
This is my favorite quote on page 18 of Bob's Book: "...ABAG is now the errand boy for major financial interests and social engineers in Sacramentio."
Marvin B. November 05, 2012 at 05:41 AM
I heard about this book in Mill Valley and purchased it last week. Take note on page 26 "All this housing will be constructed using traditional, high GHG producing building methods because truly 'green' building technologies are not yet commonly or economically available." So the special interest groups ie) MCF et al. are really promoting harming the environment and increasing GHG.
Al Dugan November 05, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Correct, part of the flawed SB375 story, build high density with traditional building and put these larger high density carbon foot prints next to Highway 101. In the case of Marin, put all the affordable housing in Novato so we have more commuting to Southern Marin from Northern Marin. It is flawed in every aspect of the goals of SB375.
Quint Evans November 05, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Im hoping the city council members don't use the book as a door stop and the city manager gets a copy. It was great reading this post . .It amazes me how dedicated, involved and smart people can be. Thank you Mr Silvestri . Im headed for Amazon.com
Chuck Hodge November 05, 2012 at 04:51 PM
It's always amazing to me that these central government, social engineering plots are able to imbed themselves in to our way of life -- all in the name of "good" -- while actually doing great harm. Thanks for the book info, Al.
Al Dugan November 05, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Bob makes a very articulate argument in his book for all of Marin leaving ABAG and that has got my attention. The big issue is can the cities work together, and I also believe it is possible to lay the ground work to assure everyone will be on the same page. The ABAG formula and projects absolutely make no sense for Novato, which I analyzed in depth, so I doubt the rest of Marin would either based on the top down planning model. This whole flawed and adverse planning process continues to threaten the largest investment of the people of Novato, the value of their house as well as will result in bonds and extra add-on to the property taxes. Look at your property taxes now and look at what is added on already.......
Trish Boorstein November 05, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Thank you Al for blogging about this book on Patch and Bob for writing it. Will be getting my copy and hopefully others will too.
Dave Robertson November 05, 2012 at 07:52 PM
I will get the book too. I like the idea of all of Marin leaving ABAG. The problem is that Novato is taking the lion's share of abuse, so it would be hard for other Marin cities to justify joining in. We seem to be the big sucker. I've said this before, but it is worth repeating. Novato needs to tell ABAG where to go. They are destroying this city. The city council is acting very spineless in all of this. When all is done they will say, "ABAG made me do it." Well, by that time, we won't have a city. Why aren't there any city council candidates ever running on a strong anti-ABAG and affordable housing platform? The current city council seems to believe that increasing our population is good for business, but low income residents (by their nature of low income) don't have a lot of money to spend. So we dilute public resources from a finite source of income and add people who can't help business thrive in Novato? We sound like we are a small town in Oklahoma! Sorry, but it likely looks that way from the outside. In 10-20 years, Novato will be a mess after everyone moves out to cut their housing losses and find a nicer place to live.
Dave Robertson November 05, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Oh yes! A Kindle edition too! You can get it in minutes for a fraction of the print price!
Bob Silvestri November 05, 2012 at 08:11 PM
If anyone would like to purchase ten copies or more of the book, please contact me to arrange for a bulk purchase discount. Thanks to everyone for your interest and support for the book. You can contact me via this special email address: mvfn@comcast.net subject: book purchase
Kim November 06, 2012 at 09:53 AM
Going to order the book now. Thanks!
Kim November 06, 2012 at 10:15 AM
This whole affordable housing mess has blown me away. I moved to Novato in Dec 2008. I purchased a 3 BR condo that was a foreclosure. I was elated...FINALLY I was able to own a home in California. I had been a homeowner before in my previous state but here in CA it was nearly impossible for a single person to do. I thought all my hard work, right investments over the yrs etc had paid off (or so I thought). I put down a very decent payment also. Then, it all went to hell. About 2 yrs in, our condo association finds out that investors were buying up the condos in our complex and then renting them out to sec8. Most of us did not know, as it is not required by law that an owner notify the association that the renters are sec8. How can condos be rented out to sec8? This is insane. This affects all of our property values now. It's not like an apartment complex with one owner who rents a few units out. So these owners just sit back and collect their guaranteed check from the state each month without any concern for the neighborhood or the other neighbors because THEY do not live here. Some of these owners do not even live in Marin. It's obvious that some people knew this whole affordable housing sham was coming down the pike. The affects have been very severe. We have had to hire an on site property manager now in addition to our regular property mgmt to deal with the increase in vandalism, trash, dumping and crime.
Kim November 06, 2012 at 10:15 AM
Apparently, these sec8'ers do not understand that because they live in a condo complex, each person is responsible for their OWN trash removal service. I honestly can't believe this is happening to me. If this county does not straighten this mess out soon, I will be selling my place as soon as I can get anywhere near what I bought it for, or if nothing else I will walk away. Also, I've noticed that the affordable housing advocates always bring this up..'oh the elderly, the single working moms etc NEED this affordable housing"...blah blah blah. Well, let me tell you first hand, none of these people are elderly, nor single working moms! I would be happy as pie to have a little elderly couple as my neighbor, but it is NOT the case. I can however, tell you about the drug dealer they took out in cuffs a few months back!
Al Dugan November 06, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Have have a new acroymn, it it TMIMBY. This is Too Much in My Backyard. Novato needs to consider Government Code Section 65584(d). Novato has over built very low and low affordable housing in Marin in the past while other cities have build none or little. The way to equalize very low and low affordable housing in Marin is to reduce Novato share to little or none in the the next 10 year housing cycle as required by Government Code Section 65584(d). This requires “Increasing the housing supply and the mix of housing types, tenure, and affordability in all cities and counties within the region in an equitable manner, which shall result in each jurisdiction receiving an allocation of units for low- and very low income households.” The details of the over building are in my blog above.
Bob Silvestri November 06, 2012 at 06:25 PM
A good point, Al, But let me take it a step further. A recent study, presented last night to the Mill Valley city council, noted that although our population has increased over the past ten years, our housing demand has declined. In fact, as of today, there are more than 400 homes (houses and apartments) in Mill Valley that are vacant! I am an affordable housing advocate and I have worked tirelessly, and unpaid, for ten years in my nonprofit working for social justice. But the taxpayers of Marin have absolutely no responsibility to build affordable housing for people living in Richmond, or Santa Rosa or anywhere else. We need to solve this paradoxical affordable housing "need" for residents who already live and work here, first, and find a way to better utilize our present housing / building stock and financial resources
Al Dugan November 06, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Novato has a similar situation that highlights ABAG's failed top down planing. Between 1999 and 2006 Novato built almost twice as much housing as Total household growth in Novato from 2000 to 2010 per the ABAG repot and the US Census data. This shows have completely flawed ABAG's projects were for Novato and it is no different for the next cycle. We all have the same problem....ABAG.
Dave Robertson November 07, 2012 at 12:54 AM
There are likely vacant homes and apts all over Marin. We definitely do not need more housing anywhere in this county. In addition there are lots of people who would sell immediately if they weren't so underwater. So the Marin (and national) housing stock looks a lot lower than it really is - mainly because of the scarcity of financing, the degree of owner solvency, and the inventories sitting in bank portfolios until they decide to unload them. It will take years to act like a healthy market, but either way there are likely far more housing units than required. It all comes down to the issue of price. When you add lots of subsidized housing in an area such as Marin, you see them snapped up as to be expected. But it is contrary to the law of supply and demand. The lower prices just makes the subsidized housing more in demand. Therefore people move here to get in on a good deal. The people who have to buy non-subsidized housing still want to get out from underneath all this. It is artificial growth when there is no reason to grow.
Bob Silvestri November 07, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Good comments, Dave. But it's even worse than that. The kinds of affordable units that are being built are not the type we really need in Marin, and so, they are not snapped up at all. The Fireside in Mill Valley is an example of this, taking almost two years to rent up. And since we mostly develop using "in lieu" methods, we get a raft of unsaleable and even unrentable units added with each project. The Millworks in Novato (which failed financially) and 505 Miller Avenue in Mill Valley (16 market rate units with 4 "affordable") are good examples.
Al Dugan November 07, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Both Dave and Bob are both right on.....both susciently outline both sides of the down side of this housing. The bottom line is it drives down the price of houses that people have work hard to buy, maintain and pay the taxes by artificially low prices and too much housing.
Dave Robertson November 07, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Yes, the Millworks failed miserably - but would not have not failed if it were built in the right area. Unfortunately, Marin is not that area. Al and Bob are spot on - these projects are not the type of housing we do need, and building them in a negative housing market only serves to lower prices more considerably. The City of Novato is so desperate to keep things "flowing" in this city that they are dooming the city to a bleak future as a "gas stop" on the way to Sonoma.
Al Dugan November 15, 2012 at 02:04 PM
SUNN the Stand up for affordable housing development (more descriptive name) continues to try and increase the city plan unilaterally. If you got their letter make sure you read Bob Silvestri on the real truth and the numbers above about Novato has far over built affordable housing already. SUNN is follow the money for developers, builders and institutional investors to build high density affordable housing.

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