County of Marin - News Releases - Affordable Housing for Families

For Immediate Release
September 18, 2017

Spotlight on Kids, Families and Affordable Housing

Community Development Agency working on housing issue from many fronts

San Rafael, CA – In prohibitively expensive Marin County, where the average home price hovers over $1.2 million and rents are among the highest in the nation, the County of Marin government is working closely with community stakeholders to assess the needs and realistic possibilities for more affordable housing.

Four women sit in chairs during the Marin Communications Forum panel on affordable housing, including the County's Debbi La Rue (right).Debbi La Rue (right), housing planner with the Marin County Community Development Agency, participates in a Marin Communications Forum on September 18. With her are (from left) Meredith Parnell of MarinKids, Lisa Schwartz of the Marin County Office of Education, and Dr. Lisa Leavitt of Marin Community Clinics.
The Marin Communication Forum approached the topic September 18 in a session titled “Un-Affordable Housing in Marin: The Impact of Homelessness and Precarious Housing on Children and Families.” The Marin County Community Development Agency’s Debbi La Rue, who specializes in housing planning, was among the guest speakers. Before about 100 people at the forum, La Rue talked about the importance of data collection to establish trends in the local housing and rental market and shed some light on the ominous lack of affordable choices for lower-income renters.

“We know that the vacancy rate is very low, less than 5 percent, and that if a family receives a 60-day notice to vacate their home they’ll be sweating it out to find another place to live before their lease term is up,” La Rue said during the event at the Embassy Suites hotel in San Rafael. “That circumstance could be exacerbated for families with kids in local school districts. They may have to choose between their housing and their child’s education.”

La Rue was on the guest panel with Dr. Lisa Leavitt of Marin Community Clinics and Lisa Schwartz of the Marin County Office of Education. Meredith Parnell, Executive Director of the nonprofit MarinKids, moderated the discussion, which was centered on housing being a factor on overall community health. Leavitt said some families on small budgets are having to choose between spending money on rent, food, heat and medicine. Schwartz said kids in families who are homeless or precariously housed have double the rates of behind held back a grade, being expelled or dropping out of high school.

The members of the Marin County Board of Supervisors have called the county’s housing situation a crisis and have made the issue one of its highest priorities. Thirty-six percent of Marin residents are renters, but there is a severe shortage of available rental units at prices considered affordable for medium- and lower-wage earners. In the past two years, 70 percent of Marin hires are people who do not live in Marin – a sign that many believe is tied to local unaffordability.

One way to give renters more stability for families is to provide tenant protections, La Rue said. “One of the options the County is considering is the need for just-cause to preclude families from being evicted without reason,” she said. The Supervisors have directed staff to work with the Board’s affordable housing ad-hoc subcommittee (Supervisors Damon Connolly and Katie Rice) and return with a proposal for a just-cause ordinance sometime this winter, La Rue said.

In February 2016, the Board endorsed an 11-point work plan to mitigate the affordable housing crisis in unincorporated Marin. In the past 15 months, the County has implemented many of those programs including the Landlord Partnership Program; acquisition and preservation of affordable housing units; amendments to the Development Code regarding accessory units; and the adoption of a Fair Housing Ordinance to establish source-of-income protections for renters. CDA staff provided a status update August 1 to the Supervisors on each program, and the Board directed staff to pursue just cause for eviction, mandatory mediation, and data collection programs.

In addition to the source-of-income protection, the State of California prohibits unfair housing practices in the rental, sale, or financing of housing because of a person's race, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, gender, parental status, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, and age.

Learn more about housing in Marin on the County’s housing webpage or  e-subscribe to receive housing policy updates from the Community Development staff.


Debbi La Rue
Community Development Agency

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 308
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-7309
Email: Debbi La Rue
Affordable Housing webpage