There is a growing understanding among many Piedmonters of the desirability of creating affordable housing in our city. If the “carrot” of building a more diverse and equitable community is not enough, there is a “stick”: the state-mandated goal to plan for 257 units of very-low-income and low-income housing in the next decade, which is part of a total 587 units the city has been assigned in the next Housing Element.
Planning for over 250 units of affordable housing will require Piedmont to expand its toolkit beyond the accessory dwelling units (ADUs) that the city has relied on to meet past, lower housing targets. Traditional multifamily affordable housing is the most effective–and the only realistic–way of meeting the city’s new affordable housing goals.
Fortunately, there are financial resources available to help us succeed. In 2016 voters in Alameda County approved Measure A1, a bond measure that gives each city an allocation to create affordable rental housing. Piedmont’s pot is $2.2 million. This is money just waiting to be used.
We are a group of affordable housing professionals, housing policy experts, and supporters of affordable housing who live in Piedmont. Since October 2020, we have been studying Measure A1 and meeting with County and City staff and officials about the best use of the city’s A1 funds. We believe the answer is clear: The City should use its Measure A1 funds to leverage state and federal tax-credit funds, and partner with an affordable housing provider to build 100% affordable multifamily housing on city-owned land.
Why is this the best use of Piedmont’s Measure A1 funds?
- Measure A1 is expressly designed to enable cities to leverage local resources to unlock additional state and federal funding. It’s no accident that every other jurisdiction has used their A1 funds in this way. Albany, for example, is tapping its similar ($2.3 million) allocation to build over 60 units of affordable housing on city-donated land. By leveraging additional state and federal funding, $2.2 million can go quite far–we estimate it could be used to build 40-70 new homes.
- Measure A1 requires that the units created are affordable for a minimum of 55 years, and that 20% of the units be affordable to extremely low-income households. While ADUs are already being built in Piedmont and will continue to be built, only deed-restricted, professionally managed multifamily affordable housing can guarantee the long-term availability of housing for low-income households and units large enough to accommodate families.
- It’s the right thing to do. Our City leaders have stated that Piedmont wants to be part of the solution to our regional housing crisis, and to become a more diverse and inclusive community. This is an opportunity for the City to show leadership in this effort by affirmatively supporting affordable multifamily housing construction in Piedmont.
An ad hoc sub-committee of the Planning Commission has been meeting since March to research and recommend a plan for using Measure A1. We encourage the committee to recommend that the City Council take the following next steps, which could happen concurrently: first, hire a consultant to help identify the most viable city-owned sites for affordable housing development; second, solicit community input and undertake outreach and engagement to build support for affordable housing; third, commit to using Piedmont’s Measure A1 funds to build multifamily affordable housing on city-owned land; and fourth, begin the steps to add affordable multifamily housing as a permissible use on public land (Zone B).
We acknowledge that constructing an affordable multifamily rental housing development in Piedmont will bring about change in the community–change that we believe is both welcome and necessary. Fortunately, there is a well-established path and a strong affordable housing industry experienced in navigating all the steps in this process. The City need not have this expertise; the City only needs to demonstrate the leadership and political will to pursue this path.
In taking these steps, we will be taking a huge step toward achieving our City-wide goals to welcome economic and racial diversity to our community.
Elise Marie Collins
Linda Roodhouse Loper
The opinions expressed here are those of the individual signers and do not represent the viewpoints of their affiliated organizations.