County examines affordable mandate of 15 percent

A screen shot of the CMAP recording shows affordable housing advocate Seth Capron at the meeting.

Most county planning commissioners this week supported instituting a 15 percent affordable housing requirement on new developments more than six years after suspending income-based mandates here.
With San Benito County in a relative growth boom these days, the county has been examining a new requirement to have at least 15 percent of new developments include affordable units.
Planning commissioners heard from local residents Wednesday night and directed planning staff officials to come back with a refined ordinance based on the discussion.
The recommendation from the planning staff was for the 15 percent figure, and four of five commissioners supported that number. Commissioner Robert Rodriguez said he thought 10 percent was the right level.
If commissioners approve the requirement, it would move on to the county board for final consideration.
Members of the public shared their view on both sides of the issue Wednesday in a workshop setting.
Affordable housing advocate Seth Capron, senior project manager for South County Housing, told board members he would prefer a higher mandate of 30 percent, along with refining some details in the proposed legislation.
“We don’t want all of our lower-income employees commuting in from Los Banos,” he said.
Capron argued the new county ordinance should break out the percentages by types of affordable designation, ranging from very low-income up to moderate income levels. He also supported including more specificity on what would qualify as an exemption and contended the county should put a temporary building moratorium in place to prevent a wave of developers trying to file applications under the current rules.
“If thousands of homes get entitled before this gets put in place, it’s going to be harder to catch up,” Capron said.
Others in attendance, however, didn’t see a need to catch up. Nino Real Estate Broker Associate Jason Noble spoke against the new mandate.
“I really wish government would stop imposing restrictions on what’s intended to be an open market,” Noble said.
Real estate business owner Tony LoBue disagreed with the affordable number because he said it’s unrealistic considering that the local growth rate is much lower. He also wondered about the ordinance kicking in on smaller developments of five or more units and asked what would happen if someone requests six units.
“How’s that going to work?” he said.
Others like resident Marty Richman wanted to see more analysis included in the ordinance’s direction.
“I think we ought to do a fact-based program, whatever it is,” he said.
Still, planning commissioners indicated broad support for a 15 percent minimum despite not having a hard “science” to follow. Planning officials told commissioners they considered affordable requirements for surrounding communities in the 15 percent recommendation. Some were lower, and others were higher, such as the 20 percent number in both Santa Clara and Monterey counties.
“I don’t see there being any science to this at all,” Commissioner Dan DeVries said.

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