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Op-Ed: Bill Makes Habitat Homes Count Toward RHNA Numbers

AB1103 by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, which takes effect in January, allows for Habitat for Humanity homes to count toward a jurisdiction’s housing mandates

Habitat for Humanity recently gave keys to two families to Novato homes that they and the Marin community rehabilitated, allowing them to become homeowners. This makes a total of three Habitat homes in our city.

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian ministry founded on the conviction that every man, woman and child should have a decent, safe and affordable place to live. They build with people in need regardless of race or religion.

I have heard some comments since the celebration that it is too bad we can’t count these homes toward our Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) numbers for our General Plan Update Housing Element. I couldn’t agree more,  and in good news, soon we will be able to.

At the celebration, I reminded the group that AB1103 by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2012, will allow for Habitat for Humanity homes to count toward a jurisdiction’s RHNA numbers. Existing law allows a city or county to meet up to 25 percent of its housing needs through conversion or rehabilitation of existing units, but it did not allow for single-family homes to be counted; only buildings with more than four units would qualify.  AB1103 allows for any foreclosed property that has been converted to very low or low-income housing with long-term affordability covenants to be counted toward meeting RHNA numbers.

This legislation will prove to be helpful during these tough economic times, when there has been in increase of foreclosed properties that often sit vacant and become eyesores in our neighborhoods for long periods of time. Habitat for Humanity’s great work in our community can now help us meet state requirements, and help families find safe and affordable places to call home.

Habitat for Humanity prospective homeowners must:

  • Be citizens or legal residents.
  • Prove steady income.
  • Have good credit.
  • Earn a monthly income that falls within minimum and maximum limits, depending on household size.
  • Sustain a savings account over a specified period of time.

In addition, each partner family will be required to:

  • Invest sweat-equity hours in building his/her home and others.
  • Make an affordable down payment.
  • Make timely mortgage payments.
  • Attend homeowner education classes.

We now have a total of three Habitat for Humanity homes in Novato and three families we welcome as new homeowners and a part of our community.

Craig Belfor November 04, 2011 at 12:14 AM
Infill as to occupancy. These homes were fallow, and now are occupied. It's still better than high density, and I'm glad the housing nazis that run our future allow this. This could be a way to satisfy them, while keeping our town's character intact.
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 November 04, 2011 at 04:51 AM
Habitat for Humanity is a fabulous organization. Too bad our three current Habitat Homes do not count toward our current housing element---which of course is not fair. Perhaps that can be changed? The Gilead Home does not count toward our element either which is unfortunate as that appears to be a successful model too. Habitat Homes are something the entire community can support. Now, if Judy could just help out with the crime at Diablo and Center Ave. Assault and battery (per police logs and witnesses) yesterday at the 7-11. Numerous police cars and an emergency vehicle per witness reports.
Craig Belfor November 04, 2011 at 06:21 AM
Jerome will take away their tax exempt status if they don't live up to their contract with the city. Money always makes one notice. The current council won't do this (too politically incorrect.)
Trish Boorstein November 04, 2011 at 04:47 PM
I understand that in all of Marin there are 4 in Novato and 1 (I think) in San Rafael. Though understandably commendable the effort, I'd like to see MCF fund similiar projects in all the jurisdictions in Marin. If we allow MCF to support only homes in Novato then we continue this regional placating and imbalance of Afforadable Housing.
Edwin Drake November 04, 2011 at 04:53 PM
How, exactly, does JJGjr plan on taking away, at a local level, what is given at the state level? This is all bluster, with no specifics to back it up.
Craig Belfor November 04, 2011 at 05:00 PM
Good point, (the elephant in the room, actually), but let's not stifle this good program just because they don't buy up a foreclosure in Ross. These properties are affordable, and the fact that they count towards the requirement (which I disagree with) while putting in a good type of family should make us want to support this program as much as we can. Whether you call it rehab or infill, it puts home ownership in the hands of working people, while avoiding the problems of non-working, non-owners in large facilities.
Sylvia Barry November 04, 2011 at 05:17 PM
Craig - Thanks, good points. Trish - I would think the reason why these properties are in Novato and/or San Rafael is because of the price point. I am not an expert on Habitat for Humanity / MCF but I would like to think there is nothing in their policies that say to limit efforts only to Novato and/or San Rafael. I would like to think the reason why they ended up with the five homes as you said is because those homes work under their guideline/budget/constraint. Foreclosed homes in Southern Marin, unfortunately, cost just a little more than in Novato/San Rafael.
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 November 04, 2011 at 05:22 PM
With Ross not being in a low wealth school district (unlike Novato) AND per the ABAG website graphs, it is painfully obvious that Ross in not taking their fiar share of affordable housing---Ross should take at least 3 Habitat Homes. Price point shouldn't be an issue there as MCF has billions, the people of Ross do too and the schools and police could absorb affordable housing.
Tina McMillan November 04, 2011 at 05:29 PM
I believe the only Habitat homes are in Novato. We have two and they are planning a total of 4. If there is a home in San Rafael it is a newer purchase. Habitat had a property in southern marin but the neighbors objected and it was never built. The first Habitat home in Marin is in Novato on Center Rd. They did a beatiful job. They rehabed and built out the front with raised beds for food just like Gilead House. It looks wonderful and serves a purpose. Don't assume that it is too costly to rehab in southern marin. The difficulty is neighbors objecting to traffic based on the locations. This is part of the AH debate. Southern Marin will always fall back on concerns over traffic and water. MARIN COUNTY / Habitat for Humanity faces fight in wealthy community 2007 http://articles.sfgate.com/2007-01-25/bay-area/17226919_1_affordable-housing-housing-plan-low-cost-housing
Tina McMillan November 04, 2011 at 05:34 PM
Toni Yes, that is exactly the point. And not just Ross but Larkspur, Corte Madera, Kentfield and all the other districts that are able to use property tax dollars alone to fund their schools. These areas also have many workers who are low and extremely low income. If the premise is to shorten the commute and have taxpayers supplement services then these communities have the tax base to offer significant help.
Craig Belfor November 04, 2011 at 06:03 PM
You guys are right about this in many ways.The real reason is money (it always is). The rich towns don't need the money like Novato does. Sausalito gets $28,000 for each student, while Novato gets $7800. Who do you think will make a deal with the devil first? Our property values have condemed us to be the dumping ground for all of Marin's underpaid nannies, gardeners, and housecleaners. I'm not against helping these people, but the warehouses that SUNN wants to build will end up taking anyone with a section 8 voucher, thugs included.The low income property managers have already advertised in Richmond to fill our warehouses. Why doesn't this happen in Ross? Money. Ross is full of lawyers who'll stop it. If they can't find a salamander, they'll cite traffic. They've got the money and the lawyers to do it. We only have one lawyer, Jerome, and he's not getting paid. They've got SUNN, and with a $80,000 bankroll, they think they can buy our town. They're winning. They're going to stuff it down our throats with enough PC sugar coat to make even the toughest realist back order the hankies. The guys (I can't call them ladies any more because I get called a sexist, misogynist racist) on the council are too busy picking out color patterns for the new digs they voted for themselves to notice what's going to happen. Vote for Jerome or buckle up.
Marie Chan November 04, 2011 at 10:46 PM
Modern, well managed affordable housing are not warehouses. They are homes, even if they are not your preference. To qualify for a Section 8 voucher requires applicants to submit to background and income level verification. Those who violate their leases are subject to eviction and loss of of their Section 8 voucher. It has already been well established that the vast majority of folks in AH are law abiding. It is inflammatory and unfair to mischaracterize people in need. There has been no increase in the total number of Section 8 vouchers in Marin for many years. Again, all types of AH should count toward our RHNA number.
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 November 04, 2011 at 11:25 PM
High density, multi-family low income housing is a failed model. The concentration of poverty is unfair and prejudice---it actually hurts people the high density low income housing industry claims to want to help. With these projects, the social programs, if any, do not help stop the cycle of poverty. Habitat Homes are successful models and we should focus on those and have other Marin towns step up to the plate like Novato continues to do---and embrace Habitat Homes.
Bob Ratto November 04, 2011 at 11:38 PM
I think Habitat/Gilead are great models, and we would do well to scale this upward, as it will allow for much better integration in all areas (So. Marin notwithstanding) Noodled around a few numbers and right now you could buy a $150k condo for an all in payment of under $1200 per month-interest rates are low, this is including property taxes, HOA, estimated insurance...Using 33% max of income you could buy with income of $42.6k per year. This would provide people roots in the community, provide the City with taxes, help stop declining home values. While this might not be a great solution for a lot, there has to be more focus on it-MCF could hold title in exchange for the down, they could also get a decent return on loan interest...better ROI than simply funding advocacy groups...
Marie Chan November 05, 2011 at 12:23 AM
See Marcus Griffin's comment above concerning modern, well managed AH. It is prudent to plan for the spectrum of housing needs within a community. Not everyone is qualified for home ownership, as we have seen in the mortgage crisis. There is a need for rental properties. It's great if they can be stepping stones to home ownership--even if the sacrifice results in that happening in the next generation. That allows education of the younger generation to be the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. We also have the example in previous posts of the HUD Sec 8 program to mentor voucher holders to eventual responsible home ownership. There are always a few rotten apples in every barrel, but they should be dealt with and not allowed to prevent reasonable help to those in need of a helping hand, not a handout.
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 November 05, 2011 at 12:35 AM
"Nonprofit housing" needs to contribute to our infrastructure: by putting in an appropriate amount of funds toward our schools, intervention programs, social services and police. With 55 year tax exemptions, with little if any accountability for crime, simply does not provide solutions to challenges we currently have in Novato.
Bob Ratto November 05, 2011 at 01:20 AM
Marie "Not everyone is qualified for home ownership, as we have seen in the mortgage crisis. There is a need for rental properties. It's great if they can be stepping stones to home ownership--"-yes, this is on the correct track! I think (actually I am about 98% sure) that there is a very viable way to scale people into homeownership while still paying needed property taxes. 50 units of moderately priced housing provides about $150k per year in property taxes, every single year. An equity share arrangement can be crafted for people to transition into ownership. When it is substantially less expensive to buy than it is to build (see current condo listings, compare to Warner, or for larger scale, see new City Hall ((which excludes land))-point is with RECORD low interest rates and a weak market, the numbers are not that hard to get at. The tenants/owners win, the City wins. Do you still need some renters? Sure...but if you gave people a path to ownership that they could see and understand, my bet is they would take it.
Marie Chan November 05, 2011 at 01:37 AM
Why are nonprofits property tax exempt? My recollection of the answer from the City staff during a Working Group session is that the vast majority provide benefit to society. Nonprofit housing pays Novato parcel taxes, all special district fees, and property taxes until a site breaks ground. Manage the properties well, and crime is minimized. Everyone wants safe neighborhoods. AH is an investment in the fabric of our society. Students without homes cannot do as well in school, undermining their ability to break the cycle of poverty. An investment in them is an investment in gang prevention.
Craig Belfor November 05, 2011 at 02:24 AM
If section 8 people are mostly good people, then why do we let the few bad apples ruin the complexes like Wyndover? I know about section 8. My family owned an apartment building in San Francisco that took section 8. Section 8 people paid less than 5% of the rent and trashed the place. We were always evicting someone, and the cleanup was amazing. It was a constant battle, but we made money, better than if it wasn't section 8. We finally sold the building and put the money elsewhere, but I'm still surprised that people look at section 8 as only good, deserving people. Section 8 vouchers are transferable, and it's nearly impossible to tell who's shacking up or who's couch surfing with Mom. I'll go for more section 8 housing if we do these things: 1) Screen the people. Run a credit check to see if they've ever been evicted, or have unpaid bills. 2) run a criminal check. No felons allowed. 3) limit the people allowed to inhabit the apartment or house. Limit the cars. Limit the pets. If they break any one of these limits, evict them. Section 8 is a privilege, not a right. People should be poor if they expect the government to help them, and they shouldn't have extra money for fancy cars, plazma TVs, or pit bulls.
Bob Ratto November 05, 2011 at 02:41 AM
Sorry, that is not a correct answer. "fabric of our society"?. The simple reason AH is tax exempt is to provide more attractive returns as an incentive to invest in AH. This is simply a tax policy issue. And, as to our newly touted "homeless children", I think the term has been twisted from "precariously housed"...which is fine...many, many people would fit the definition of precariously housed today. Let's try and stick to positive ways to come to solutions, rather than injecting rhetoric into the argument. There are solutions, and sometimes you need to think about the "whole", rather than the "few".
Bob Ratto November 05, 2011 at 02:51 AM
Craig Tough deal. I really wonder if between eviction, cleanup, re-tenanting if you were really making as much as you all thought. I was working on vacancy/repair stuff on a spreadsheet tonight, and it can really add up fast. Section 8 is conceptually a great idea, but it really does very little over time to ever break a cycle of dependence/build personal responsibility, which is really tough. It can't realistically be effectively monitored ( a prime example came up this week with the attempted eviction of Royce McLemore, a very long time resident in Marin City-MHA is choosing to her evict her over taking care of her dying mother!-selective enforcement at its finest)...I like your ideas about screening, a lot. One of the key problems with "W" is the City has absolutely no agreements!...Lesson should be learned there.
Sylvia Barry November 05, 2011 at 04:07 AM
Craig - I also help my clients rent their homes out - especially now with investment properties and/or don't want to sell in this market. Credit/background/reference checks, interviewing prospective renters, financial worthiness, list people who are going to live in the house, limited (or no) pets, no smoking, $$ security deposit, move-in check list, etc are all standard processes and rental terms are spelled out on the lease agreement. My clients will go through several applications before settling on their renters - I really encourage them to be very selective. Both landlords and renters are responsible for the conditions of the property. Some landlords are very selective on who they allow to rent their properties and they do have a right to go and check on their property with advanced notices. If they select their tenants carefully and check on their properties often, then hopefully the outcome is better. My sister has a house in S.F., was under rent control. They had some terrible renters and my brother-in-law had a difficult time evict the renters. Those were NOT section 8 renters. They were just bad renters. My understanding is S.F. is also very pro-tenants which did not help the situation. I helped them find their last two sets of renters. The first set stayed for five years until they bought their million dollar home and the current ones are enhancing the property for them. Careful selection of the tenants is key in all rentals.
Sylvia Barry November 05, 2011 at 05:14 AM
Bob: Love thinking outside the box and come up with alternatives. Agreed, the model last night, up to $350K for a condo and up to $400K for a single family home is steep, but $150K does seem to be a much workable solution. Some quick thoughts: 1) Supply - There are only 2 active, 12 contingent condos under $180K (I went higher). So the supply is not a lot. 2) Some HOAs only allow certain % of rentals, which means MCF can’t own it, some don’t qualify for FHA loans so 15-20% down payment is required, some have extremely high HOA fees ($420?), some are small, under 1,000sf, some are in not so desirable locations 3) MCF needs to structure their program to lend and manage the money they loaned. Since most lenders are much more conservative now, they might not accept almost 100% financing. This means MCF may have to mortgage the entire loan. 4) If MCF owns those homes, they will have to manage/maintain those properties, which may not be what they want to be involved. 5) Some people may really not want/ready to own. Homeownership can both be nice and a burden. These are just some thoughts come to mind to see if this is a practical solution, certainly seems to be a great idea to add to the mix. I believe everybody on this thread is for creative solutions to mitigate the mandate. MCF’s housing strategy 2 allows groups to apply for grants from MCF for certain project ideas, this might be one.
Marie Chan November 05, 2011 at 06:58 AM
Craig, in my opinion we shouldn't let the few bad apples spoil a safe, decent home environment for the majority. Sylvia's right about tenant selection, but that is only one part of effective professional management. One of the contributions that Marla, Katie, and I made to the Working Group was the drafting of AH best management policies, including stringent tenant screening requirements. http://neighborlynovato.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=132&Itemid=102 The City can impose these kinds of requirements as conditions of its future financial investment in any AH. Bob: "The simple reason AH is tax exempt is to provide more attractive returns as an incentive to invest in AH." You've described an incentive--a means, but one of the ends is that there is a recognized need for AH. That's the benefit to which I am referring. Totally agree with consideration of the larger picture. My apologies if the example I gave implies otherwise. I'm a sustainability advocate. My involvement in the AH issue stems from my commitment to supporting actions that would reduce GHG emissions. That would be a benefit to us all.
Bob Ratto November 05, 2011 at 12:49 PM
Sylvia Thanks, this is helpful. I didn't realize there were only 2 active at that price point, seems very low to me..I scaled price points at 150, 200, 250 300...used 20% down....added estimated HOA fees,etc. It would take a public/private partnership to make something like this work, and MCF would need to change its mission of "not wanting to be directly involved" -no doubt about that...but with their power, they could self fund (down/mortgages) on the entire thing, and still earn a decent return while giving those who choose to have an opportunity to own a path to ownership...I was envisioning people earning out a larger percentage of equity each year. This is just one possible strategy, others could be small developments partially funded by "in lieu" fees.
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 November 05, 2011 at 03:05 PM
High density housing creates local pollution and the loss of quality of life. Three people on the ad hoc group were pushing for 40 to 50 units an acre which the majority of people were against. With tax bonds, density bonuses and tax exemptions (currently the school parcel tax is only 8.00 a month in Novato--hardly enough to off set the school needs) these projects are money makers for the investors. Wyndover makes over 1.7 million a year-- a high density low income multi-family project---the invester/ Fairfield Residential put less than 3 million into purchasing the project. It is a cash cow, while they are not accountable for safe housing. All of the police calls to the complex are paid by the hard working people of Novato. Have to leave this blog now---thank you for engaging everyone...
Sylvia Barry November 05, 2011 at 11:39 PM
For units 1-4 rentals, stringent screening of prospective tenants and periodically property inspection are keys for quality tenancy. For multiple-units apartments, city council directed the staff at the last special housing element meeting to put priority on reviewing and establishing the draft Housing Policies and the Management of Multiple-Family Housing developed by Ad Hoc Housing Working Group. This includes 'Tenanting, Safety and Management of multiple-family housing', which applies to both low-income and none low-income housing. This was on city council’s 09/27 and 10/04 agenda. http://ci.novato.ca.us/agendas/pdfstaffreports/cc11_184.pdf Hopefully this can be developed and implemented soon for any future multiple-unit housing development; and, if possible, adopted retroactively by existing housing.
Craig Belfor November 06, 2011 at 12:11 AM
You guys are dreaming about the screening. As I said in a earlier post, My family had a low income, section 8 apartment building in San Francisco. The worse the tenant, the more we made. If they were really poor, the government would pay 95% of their rent, and give them welfare and food stamps. We had tenants getting $1200 in cash, plus food stamps, with only $50 required towards rent from them, while the government paid the other $950. Within a week of moving in, they had 2 or 3 more people living there, and were trashing the place. They never paid the $50, and the few who didn't have good cars rented out their parking spaces for up to $100 per month and still didn't pay us the rent. Why did we allow this? WE MADE BANK! The government paid their portion of the rent on time, and paid for all for the damages. We only lost $50 per month on each unit, and just set the rent higher to cover it. If the tenant was better off, we'd loose more, because the government would only guarantee (pay) a smaller percentage of the rent. I've had other properties since then, but never came close to the return on that building. When I call Wyndover a wino warehouse, I speak from direct experience. It's a great business if you don't have a conscience or have to live nearby. Don't look for them to change. They won't until they loose money. The men on the council need to fine them, using the crack house rules from Richmond. When we solve Wyndover, then we entertain a new building.
PeaceNovato November 06, 2011 at 09:10 PM
I just love it when you lead with insubstantiated statements like "High density housing creates local pollution...". Makes me wonder about the validity of everything else....
Tina McMillan November 06, 2011 at 09:28 PM
Don She was referring to the problems with the Eden House site prior to the beginning of construction. They wouldn't maintain the area even after repeated requests. Finally once they received the okay on the funding from the city it was cleaned up. I know the words are fiery but the heart behind the conflict has to do with the Wyndover complex continually creating problems for their own residents and the community as a whole. Most everyone posting has a credible argument. Sometimes you just have to ask what they mean.

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