County of Marin - News Releases - Housing Affordability

For Immediate Release
February 10, 2016

Board Enthusiastic About Housing Preservation

Staff directed to implement steps including acquisition of more existing units

San Rafael, CA – With encouragement from the Marin County Board of Supervisors, the County government will work to implement several key measures to preserve local housing affordability, including acquiring existing housing to create more affordable units and encouraging landlords to adhere to voluntary rent guidelines.

San Rafael City School Trustee Linda Jackson speaks to the Board of Supervisors about teachers in need of affordable housing.San Rafael City School Trustee Linda Jackson speaks to the Board of Supervisors about teachers in need of affordable housing.
After collecting feedback from three public workshops last fall, the Supervisors held a hearing February 9 and heard two hours of public comment as well as recommendations from leaders from the Community Development Agency (CDA).

CDA Director Brian Crawford and Principal Planner Leelee Thomas presented policy options that would enhance housing affordability in unincorporated Marin. The Board asked that CDA prioritize short-term rental regulations, promote landlord incentives to keep rents affordable, consider a second-unit amnesty program and develop housing partnerships with other community organizations such as the one the County already has with the Marin Community Foundation.

Earlier during Tuesday’s meeting, the Supervisors unanimously authorized a $675,000 loan from the County’s Housing Trust Fund for the purchase of the Piper Court Apartments in Fairfax to preserve its affordable units. The County worked with the Marin Community Foundation to help preserve the 27 apartments as affordable. Supervisor Steve Kinsey, the Board President, said it was an excellent example of what needs to be done more often.

“We have seen the future, and the future looks like this,” Kinsey said. “We’re going to need to use our existing housing stock to achieve our housing goals.” Later during in the afternoon hearing, he added, “Buying existing stock is our No. 1 strategy in the near term, and we need to be aggressive with acquisitions.”

Supervisor Katie Rice, who represents the Ross Valley and those who live in and near the Piper Court Apartments, added, “We need to be nimble, willing to partner, creative and opportunistic when these prospects come up.”

During the afternoon hearing on housing affordability, many of the public speakers represented the views of local workforce, including West Marin ranch workers, and were in favor of improving conditions and increasing the supply of rental housing. Although the Board previously chose to pursue voluntary rent stability guidelines rather than initiate rent regulation, the planners came away with a list of 10 priorities, including such measures as tenant protections, short-term rental regulations and studying changes to existing housing regulations to facilitate more affordable options in Marin.

“What we want to do is really move the dial,” Kinsey said, “and what the community is interested in is having us do as much as possible as soon as possible about this issue.”

Rental prices in Marin have soared in recent years, impacting thousands of renter households that comprise 30 percent of Marin’s population. The median single-family detached home in Marin costs more than $1 million. A condominium or townhome averages more than $500,000 and rents average $2,500. Local housing unaffordability is hampering employee recruitment for local businesses, government bodies, school districts and nonprofits.

Housing officials are working with local landlords to provide incentives to keep apartments affordable, promoting development of second units, acquire existing rental housing for preservation of and conversion to affordable homes, and encourage multifamily housing.

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Leelee Thomas
Planning Manager
Community Development Agency

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 308
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6697
Email: Leelee Thomas
Affordable Housing webpage