There are powerful forces in San Mateo County opposed to affordable housing. How can a city move the needle when residents routinely oppose any housing development and lobbyists pressure them to maintain the status quo?
“The No. 1 issue is political will,” said Diana Reddy, a longtime affordable housing advocate who was elected to the Redwood City City Council in 2018. Just a few years ago, housing proponents argued that we needed more homes that teachers and nurses could afford. Now the problem of homelessness is so overwhelming that cities are focusing more often on housing for people in very dire straits.
Matt Franklin, Chief Executive of MidPen Housing, agreed. “Deeply affordable housing needs are the most pressing,” he said. He is particularly concerned about county residents with extremely low incomes who are one serious illness or missed paycheck away from eviction. The California Housing Partnership’s 2021 Affordable Housing Needs Report for San Mateo County shows 24,440 low-income renter households in the county without access to an affordable home. 33
The county’s homeless population count in 2019 (the most recent one) was 1,500. 34 According to Franklin, if just 6 percent of the 24,400 low-income renter households lose their homes, San Mateo County’s homeless count will nearly double 35.
Helen moved to the Bay Area in 2013 to be closer to her children, but her rent increased $500 within six months and she moved six times in seven years, sometimes even renting space in living rooms. “I would lie awake at night wondering when I’d be told I’d have to move again because I wasn’t on a lease,” she recalled. She applied for several housing lists and started working two jobs to make ends meet: one full-time job in retail and another at night in a supermarket. She still couldn’t afford a place of her own and her health was deteriorating. Then she got a call that she had been accepted in Arroyo Green, a 117-unit senior apartment complex in downtown Redwood City. The city donated the land, the county provided project-based housing vouchers, and MidPen Housing built and manages the property. “I am thankful for the stability and possibility of being independent as I age,” Helen said. “After so long, it is a blessing, a dream come true.”
Redwood City has made great strides in addressing the affordable housing shortage, primarily by requiring every applicant for a commercial development to pay an affordable housing impact fee (also called a linkage fee) or provide affordable housing instead. They’re been quite successful in persuading developers to build affordable units instead of the fee.
“We’ve made it clear to commercial developers not to talk to us unless they include housing in their projects – not just housing, but affordable housing for people with extremely low incomes,” Reddy explained. The city built 588 affordable units between 2015 and 2020. It currently has nearly 600 affordable units going through the planning review process that have not yet been approved by the City Council. Another 277 affordable units have been approved but haven’t started construction yet. On September 27, the council unanimously approved a property exchange with the county that will create the county’s first Navigation Center, a 240-bed shelter with comprehensive services designed to break the cycle of homelessness. Along with two hotels that were recently transformed into housing with Homekey funds from the state, the city is providing 308 units to help homeless individuals move into safe spaces.
What has made Redwood City’s council embrace affordable housing? Reddy said council members are hearing loud and clear from residents who have become aware that some of the workers they depend on – such as teachers, gardeners, hairdressers and grocery workers – are in danger of losing their homes.
The other issue impeding more affordable housing is lack of funding. Shirley Gibson, District Attorney for the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, explained, “It’s an incredibly heavy lift for any local jurisdiction to put a dent in any level of affordable housing. It happens slowly and with not enough money. I think cities are justified in saying, “What more do you want from us?’
State and federal funding is beginning to make a big difference. Ray Hodges of San Mateo County’s Department of Housing said the most impactful thing his department has done during the last decade is administer the county’s Affordable Housing Fund (AHF). During the first eight years of the AHF, the county funded 3,269 affordable housing units in the county. Roughly one-third of those units will be affordable to extremely low-income households, in most cases formerly homeless households. About another third are for very low-income households. Of the total, 1,447 of the affordable homes are already complete and leased, and another 856 are currently in construction. The county Department of Housing estimates there are currently more than 2,000 units in various stages of the predevelopment pipeline, including 966 which have already received a county funding commitment.
Today, the primary source of revenue for these projects is Measure K, the half-cent county sales tax that voters approved in November 2016 to support essential county services. The current round of funding is the biggest yet: slightly more than $50 million. The county Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider funding recommendations for the ninth round of proposals in late October or early November of this year.
Shores Landing offers 93 units of permanent housing and supportive services to extremely low-income seniors. Source: Marriott.com
Hodges said Project Homekey, funded by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, is one of the county’s biggest successes. With Homekey funding, the county acquired two hotels late last year, plus an additional hotel that was acquired without Homekey support. The county selected operators in a competitive process by the end of February 2021 and completed occupancy of the buildings during the spring and summer:
Shores Landing (formerly TownePlace Suites owned by Marriott) in Redwood Shores has been transformed into 93 units of permanent supportive housing with full bathrooms and kitchens for formerly homeless and extremely low-income seniors, plus two managers’ units. All units are now occupied. MidPen Housing is managing the property on the county’s behalf.
The 75-unit Pacific Inn at 2610 El Camino in Redwood City has become the Pacific Shelter and will provide interim housing with wraparound services to homeless individuals while they seek permanent affordable housing. The property is managed by Samaritan House and is fully occupied.
The 52-room Coastside Inn at 230 Cabrillo Highway South in Half Moon Bay, now called Coast House, also provides emergency shelter and wraparound services for homeless individuals while they seek long-term housing. The property manager is LifeMoves, and this property is also in full use.
These units, combined with the county’s first Navigation Center at 1469 Maple St. in Redwood City, are providing 462 units of permanent and interim housing that will help the county make a giant leap in addressing homelessness. “A Navigation Center will play an important role in addressing the need for not only shelter but services,” said County Manager Mike Callagy. “The county’s goal is to achieve functional zero homelessness, meaning that anyone who desires shelter can access it through an array of county facilities and programs.”
Case Study: Edwina and Demetrio’s Story
Edwina and Demetrio, both 72, lost their home when their daughter lost her job and was not able to pay rent. They were able to stay with friends but when they wore out their welcome, there was nowhere to go. Instead, the two seniors ended up living in their car, relying on malls for bathrooms and rest stops to park overnight. Living through the pandemic in their car was terrifying. They lived in fear of becoming sick. But when they needed it most, Edwina and Demetrio found Samaritan House. With the assistance of a case manager, they were able to get into a shelter. From there, they had the support they needed to apply for housing vouchers. It wasn’t easy, but more than 60 voucher applications later, they finally qualified for permanent housing. Today, they are living in their home, and have access to the resources and support they need to stay housed and fed.
The following policies are some of the major initiatives currently taken to improve housing in San Mateo County, the Bay Area and the State of California.
Home for All San Mateo County
The mission of Home for All is to establish a climate in San Mateo County where a diversity of housing is produced and preserved so that San Mateo County is a culturally, generationally and economically diverse community with housing for all. This is a collaborative initiative of the County of San Mateo, local governments, school districts, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, advocacy groups and businesses. It is administratively supported and funded by the County of San Mateo. The Home for All Toolkit links to a variety of solutions for closing the jobs-housing gap.
All nine Bay Area counties are part of All Home, which brings together experts committed to reduce homelessness. The goal of its Regional Action Plan is to reduce homelessless by 75 percent by 2024. The plan’s “1-2-4” framework proposes immediate action in three steps. For every one unit of interim housing, create two units of permanent housing (such as subsidies and supportive housing) and four units of homelessness prevention, like financial assistance, housing problem-solving and legal services. This process gets homeless individuals into housing quickly and prevents other residents from becoming homeless while going through the time-consuming and expensive process of building permanent housing. Thus far, the program has been incredibly successful in changing lives.
Roadmap Home 2030
Roadmap Home 2030 is California’s 10-year plan to help build affordable homes, protect low-income renters, end homelessness, and advance racial equity and economic inclusion. It was developed by Housing California and the California Housing Partnership. It learned that California would need to invest approximately $17.9 billion per year – an amount similar to what the state invests in higher education – to meet the massive scale of California’s need. The housing development activity proposed in the Roadmap Home 2030 would generate $48 billion in wages and business income ($2.7 trillion total over the 55-year affordability term for these developments), produce $14 billion in state and local taxes annually ($778 billion total) and support 613,000 jobs annually (34 million total). The 57 policy solutions included in the ambitious plan aim to end homelessness, protect 1 million low-income renter households, create 1.2 million affordable homes and address and close racial equity gaps in housing insecurity.
California Comeback Plan
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s California Comeback Plan is the single largest investment in housing in the state’s history. It offers $10.3 billion for affordable housing and more than $12 billion to mitigate homelessness. It includes $5.2 billion to help low-income renters and landlords, covering 100 percent of back rent and all prospective rent for several months in the future. Nearly $5.8 billion will fund 42,000 new housing units through Homekey, California’s groundbreaking national model that shelters homeless individuals quickly in converted hotels and motels. More information about the California Comeback Plan can be found here.
New Standard of Fair Housing
In April 2021 California’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) issued guidelines for the implementation of a fair housing bill that extend the definition of “fair housing” far beyond the prohibition of discrimination in the sale and rental of housing. The new requirements say cities and counties must proactively adopt policies to “ameliorate past actions that led to inequity.” They are designed to correct the state’s exclusionary history. They include examples of local fair housing laws, such as ordinances that facilitate community land trusts and tenant opportunities to purchase their multifamily housing, and local ordinances that prevent harassment of tenants. They should inspire cities to add fair housing policies to their Housing Element, the part of their General Plan that identifies housing needs and must be submitted to the state for approval. Housing Element approval is required in order for cities to be eligible for many funds that support transportation, housing and other services. If cities are not in compliance, they also risk losing control of local land use decisions.
State Legislation Aimed at Increasing Density
In September 2021, California legislators passed two controversial housing bills: one that curbs single-family zoning in most neighborhoods statewide and another that allows local governments to build up to 10 units on single-family lots near public transit. Senate Bill 9 allows as many as two duplexes (two houses with attached units), increasing density to as much as four units on single-family lots throughout California, without local approval. Senate Bill No. 10 allows environmental review to be expedited for multi-unit projects near transit hubs or in urban developments.
Assembly Bill 2345, which took effect on January 1, 2021, allows residential projects in California with on-site affordable housing to get a density bonus (the maximum allowable development on the site) of up to 50 percent. It also lowered the below-market-rate (BMR) thresholds for “concessions and incentives” from zoning and development regulations that would make a project more expensive to construct. In addition, density bonus projects within one-half mile of a major transit stop and with direct access to the stop may be able to avoid minimum parking requirements.
Housing advocates are especially enthusiastic about Senate Bill 9. David Garcia, Policy Director for the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at U.C. Berkeley, predicts it will take a few years to translate the legislation into ramped-up construction, but says it is a meaningful start. “It signals that lawmakers are willing to take on the traditional sacred cows of housing and single-family zoning,” he said. “From a political standpoint, that’s a pretty significant shift in the housing landscape.”
The San Francisco Chronicle estimates that Senate Bill 9 will make an estimated 22 new homes available in San Mateo County for every 1,000 residents.1
Accessory Dwelling Units
California is encouraging cities to build more affordable housing by making it easier to add independent living facilities on lots with existing or proposed housing. Called accessory dwelling units (ADUs), they can be located in a backyard or attached to another residence. Senate Bill 9, which allows as many as two duplexes (two houses with attached units) on single-family lots, makes it easier for homeowners to add ADUs.
In order for local cities and the county to thrive and secure a sustainable future, increasing equitable and accessible housing needs to become a priority. Below are some projects and initiatives that have shown great promise.
Hotels and Motels to Transitional Housing
Obtaining hotels throughout California and transitioning them into interim housing for the homeless has shown to be a successful solution to bring unsheltered people secure, temporary housing. HomeKey housing, a successful program that buys hotels, motels and hostels and transitions them for homeless housing, is receiving $2.5 billion dollars in funding from Gov. Newsom’s new California Plan.
Trading Public Land for Housing
The City of Burlingame came up with a creative solution for providing affordable housing in its downtown core. The City Council voted to exchange two public parking lots for an affordable housing project on one lot and a parking structure on the other. The five-story housing complex, now under construction, will provide 132 affordable apartments that are intended for people working in Burlingame and Burlingame seniors. The existing parking stalls were relocated to a five-level parking structure that recently opened at 161 Highland Ave. (near Howard Avenue) with 368 parking spaces and 24 electric vehicle charging stations.
Burlingame’s affordable development, now under construction. Source: City of Burlingame
Case Study: The Village at Burlingame
Burlingame partnered with The Pacific Companies to replace two public parking lots with an affordable housing development on one lot and a parking structure on the other. Both are located in the heart of downtown Burlingame. The five-story housing complex will provide 132 units for seniors and people working in the community. It will connect via a public park to the recently opened parking structure, which offers 365 parking spaces – approximately 180 spaces more than the parking lot it replaced.
Housing for Disabled Individuals
South San Francisco has approved a 36-unit below-market-rate development in the city’s downtown, with half of the units reserved for households with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The city also approved a $4 million loan to assist with the project’s development.
Affordable housing built near transit is a win-win. The reduction in automobile traffic combined with housing aimed at a variety of income levels has been found to be an impactful, positive solution. For example, the City of San Mateo created the San Mateo Rail Corridor Transit-Oriented Development Plan for much of the areas around the Hillsdale and Hayward Park Caltrain stations. While limitations on height and density in the plan area did have a detrimental effect on the number of units that could be built, San Mateo’s plan is proving to be a resounding success. The city worked with nonprofit Bridge Housing to create Montara, a transit-oriented development with 68 units of affordable housing for different income levels. It is adjacent to a shopping center, a medical office building and the new San Mateo Police Department headquarters.
Facebook has collaborated with the State of California to commit $1 billion to aid with affordable housing. This investment’s goal is to produce up to 20,000 new housing units. Specifically, Facebook is giving $225 million in land in Menlo Park that will now be zoned for housing. An additional $250 million will go toward mixed-income housing, and $150 million will go into producing affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lastly, $350 million will be given as funds for future commitments depending on the effectiveness of the above initiatives. Like Facebook, Apple and Google are also investing to build homes in the Bay Area. Google has pledged to repurpose $750 million of Google’s land to housing, as well as a $250 million investment fund for affordable housing units . Apple has committed $2.5 billion to combat the housing crisis in California that includes $150 million for Bay Area funding and $1 billion in an affordable housing investment fund. If other major companies join forces and aid with supplying desperately needed housing, San Mateo County and the rest of the Bay Area can be significantly transformed.
Housing for Teachers
School districts in expensive regions of California are increasingly offering housing incentives to attract new teachers and prevent current staff from leaving. A 2019 EdSource analysis found that the Bay Area has the largest disparity between teacher salaries and rental housing costs in California. In 47 school districts in the region, the highest-paid teachers only earn enough to rent an affordable one-bedroom apartment, using the federal definition of affordable housing as 30 percent or less of household income.40
The Serramonte Del Rey master plan, now under construction, includes housing for teachers and staff in the center building.
The City of Daly City, the Jefferson Union High School District and the Jefferson Elementary School District are working together to build affordable housing for teachers and staff. The Serramonte Del Rey project is currently under construction at the corner of Serramonte Boulevard and Entry Drive. It is expected to be completed in 2022. Eventually, it will be part of a walkable, bikeable, family-friendly neighborhood with shopping, park space and fitness trails.
Housing for Public Employees
The City of San Mateo’s ambitious 225-unit Kiku Crossing development near the Japanese-American Community Center downtown that will offer 121 units for extremely low-, very low- and low-income families, and 102 units for households that earn greater than 60 percent and less than 80 percent of Area Median Income, plus two units for managers and support staff. Preference will be given to public employees of the city, county, state, local school districts and other public agencies for 57 of the units, provided they meet the income thresholds, while 22 units will be reserved for homeless households. The remaining eight units are being considered for individuals with developmental disabilities. The city is offering a $12.5 million interest-free construction loan and a ground lease of $1 per year to the operator (MidPen Housing). It will waive all permit and review fees. A five-story parking structure on Fifth Avenue will be connected to the building by a bridge and will provide 164 private residential parking stalls. An additional 532 public parking stalls will be constructed.
In partnership with MidPen Housing, Daly City is redeveloping a 150-unit Housing Authority property that will result in 555 affordable units plus a brand new city park and a new and expanded child development center operated by Peninsula Family Service. Construction began in August.
First-Time Homebuyers Program
San Mateo County has created a unique loan program to help people buy their first home in the county if they earn no more than $170,000 and live or work in the county. It is offered through the Housing Endowment and Regional Trust (the HEART of San Mateo County) in partnership with Meriwest Mortgage. The maximum purchase price is $908,156. Learn more here.
A local nonprofit, HIP Housing, helps match individuals seeking housing with people who have a room or an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) to rent. It helps individuals remain in their homes and allows local workers to live close to home. The organization provides many support services, including interviewing and screening applicants, doing a background search and facilitating a Living Together Agreement. Details are available here. In addition, HIP Housing has leveraged cross-sector partnerships to acquire and create housing properties for its tenants.
Habitat for Humanity
Working with volunteers, Habitat for Humanity builds, renovates and repairs an average of 400 homes per year in California. Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco is currently building an affordable housing development in downtown Redwood City that will accommodate 20 families. More info here.
Tax Increment Financing
Throughout the U.S. the federal government allocates Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) to certain housing projects constructed for extremely low, very low and low-income residents. These become credits (not deductions from income) from federal income taxes. An individual, usually a wealthy investor, puts up cash to purchase bonds and receives tax credits in return. Most LIHTCs enable investors to reduce their income tax liabilities for 10 years. Funds raised from these LIHTC bonds finance the rehabilitation of existing housing units or the construction of new housing units.
Since LIHTCs were first created by Congress in 1986, they have helped fund more than 225,000 new units or acquisition and rehabilitation of almost 190,000 housing units in California. LIHTC subsidies have helped produce an average of 7,700 new units of affordable housing in California each year. LIHTCs are a great source of funding for low-income housing, but are not without issues related to implementation. Learn more about tax increment financing here (6,2MB PDF)
East Palo Alto has collaborated with WeHope to provide mobile homelessness services, emergency food and shelter, and job and life skills training. This program has successfully helped many homeless people get off the streets and is aiding their transition to permanent housing. More information about WeHope can be found here.
Some cities are constructing small, weatherproof homes to shelter the homeless. One is San Francisco, which is replacing a tent village on Gough Street near Market Street with 70 cabins that have 2-inch-thick walls, heat, a desk, a bed and a window.41 The tiny homes allow their occupants to lock their doors and feel safe. Oakland and San Jose have also embraced this approach. More info is available here.
A density bonus can incentivize builders to increase the number of affordable housing units they incorporate in a project. It is a tool that has been successfully used to provide developers with more housing units on a given development site in exchange for a percentage of those units becoming affordable. As land in San Mateo County is limited, this is an easy way for local cities to increase their share of affordable housing.
Relocation and Red Tag Ordinances
To inspire landlords to keep units safe and in good repair, some jurisdictions have enacted relocation ordinances that provide benefits for tenants who are subject to a no-fault just cause eviction. It enhances the benefits provided under those provided under Assembly Bill 142, which specify one month’s rent. Concord’s relocation ordinance provides two months’ rent or $5,000, whichever is greater. Red tag ordinances provide additional benefits when tenants are forced to relocate due to substandard conditions that are a threat to health and safety. For example, San Mateo County’s red tag ordinance gives a tenant experiencing permanent displacement three times the monthly rent of a comparable unit. The City of San Mateo’s relocation ordinance is modeled after the county’s.
Safe RV Parking Program
In August of 2020, Redwood City approved a $1.7 million temporary RV parking program. This program allowed recreational vehicle (RV) owners to park within city limits at certain locations and funds caseworkers to help transition the residents into permanent housing and find jobs. Since this program has been approved, there has been a significant decrease in the number of RV dwellers as many of them have successfully transitioned to permanent housing. Providing more areas within the county for people to safely park their RVs can help further reduce homelessness and provide another path for permanent housing.
NOTE: More information about the following solutions can be found in the Affordable Housing section of Sustainable San Mateo County’s Sustainability Ideas Bank here.
Business License Tax Subsidy
An increase in the business license tax on gross receipts for owners of residential rental properties can generate revenue to prevent evictions and fund affordable housing. Voters in the City of Berkeley passed a measure in 2016 with a 75 percent approval rate that raised the business license tax on residential rental properties by 1.8 percent of gross receipts, from 1.081 to 2.88 percent. This measure generates about $3.5 million yearly.
Housing Impact Fees
Housing impact fees are fees imposed on property developers that are based on the fair cost of city services and can also support more affordable housing. Increasing or implementing this fee can help increase the number of much-needed housing units. Most cities in San Mateo County have already enacted housing impact fees, but a few have yet to enact them, and others may choose to adjust them.
Inclusionary Housing Incentives
If housing impact fees are low, they may encourage developers to pay the fee (“cost of doing business”) rather than set aside some units for affordable housing. A better alternative is providing incentives, such as speedier plan processing or a density bonus to developers who incorporate some below-market rate units in their plans.
Option to Buy for Tenants
Limited Equity Housing Cooperatives and the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act offer tenants the possibility of buying rental units under certain conditions, thus preventing evictions and the gentrification of housing.
Mandatory Rent Registry
Requiring property owners or landlords to annually report data regarding residential rents and other relevant information to a citywide database allows a city to collect, monitor and analyze rents throughout the city in order to make fair and well-informed decisions regarding affordable housing. The City of Concord’s Residential Rent Registry Program, which took effect on July 1, 2021, requires all multifamily complexes of four or more units to register with the city on an annual basis. In El Cerrito, property owners are required to join the registry when their business license renewal forms are due, ensuring that there is one clear deadline for all landlords. Failure to comply with the policy will result in legal enforcement and fines.
Missing Middle Housing
Changing zoning to allow duplexes, or more units per building, in single-family residence neighborhoods increases the availability of housing. Some jurisdictions such as Minneapolis have embraced this concept citywide. The size and appearance of these homes can be regulated so that they blend in with existing homes and the “look and feel” of the neighborhood. The concept was called “Missing Middle Housing” because it was first aimed at middle-income residents like teachers and nurses. Today, policymakers understand that affordable housing is needed for all income levels in California. Senate Bill 9, recently signed into law by Gov. Newsom, will increase density to as much as four units on single-family lots throughout California without local approval.
Here are some other suggestions for improving housing equity and increasing the supply of affordable housing in San Mateo County.
Adding a compliance mechanism could prevent landlords from ignoring the just causes for eviction listed in Assembly Bill 1482. For example, if a landlord evicts tenants because he says members of his own family are going to move in or that he’s planning to do a major remodel, there usually isn’t anyone making sure the landlord doesn’t rent the property to someone else at a higher price. One way to ensure compliance is to require the landlord to have a permit in hand for a substantial remodel before evicting the tenant. That’s what Los Angeles does. The city’s ordinance is here. Background on the ordinance is here. The City of South Pasadena approved a law protecting tenants during remodels in January 2021.
Countywide Collaboration on Policies
Some housing advocates have proposed enlisting the 21 Elements collaborative in creating a rent registry for all jurisdictions in the county to facilitate transparency. 21 Elements was very successful in helping the county’s 20 cities and the county jointly research housing impact fees, thus saving money. The group might also assist the 21 jurisdictions in creating a joint compliance mechanism that would make sure renters are not evicted for illegal reasons.
Inclusionary Housing with Racial Equity
Grounded Solutions recommends matching income targets and household sizes in affordable housing projects to those of renter households of color. To avoid stigmatizing residents of affordable units in buildings that also offer market-rate housing, they suggest locating the affordable units throughout the building, making them comparable in size and design, and having them share the same entrances and common areas. One good example cited is Charlotte, N.C.’s inclusionary design standards. 42 In communities that don’t have strong housing markets, city funds may subsidize affordable housing, as Detroit does in its inclusionary housing ordinance. 43 More information about this recommendation can be found here.
Some cities have extra housing credits which can be dispersed to other cities. For example, San Mateo was able to transfer some leftover federal funds to buy units for a senior development next to City Hall in Foster City. Another approach being considered is to share housing in-lieu fees among cities in order to construct homes where there is available land or available development. Some cities are considering agreements among themselves in order to have consistency in construction costs.
Speedy Help for Tenants Facing Eviction
San Francisco has pooled its rental assistance funds to establish the Eviction Defense Collaborative, a long-term, successful model for assisting renters facing legal eviction that has received national acclaim. The collaborative acts quickly to provide two things that often stop landlords from pursuing legal action: (1) a tenant attorney and (2) an interest-free loan or grant that enables the tenant to make a swift payment.
Loan Forgiveness for Rent Stabilization
In 2015 Redwood City approved a loan forgiveness program for property owners installing fire sprinklers in older residential buildings with four or more units in exchange for an agreement to slow rent increases. Dubbed the Fire Safety First Program, it provided owners with an incentive to retrofit their at-risk residential buildings during a five-year voluntary compliance period in exchange for slow rent increases. Participants agreed to raise rents no more than 5 percent or the increase in the Consumer Price Index, whichever was less, during 12-month periods throughout the five-year term of the loan. This same process might be adopted by cities wishing to incentivize improvements in older multi-residential buildings or to encourage more accessory dwelling units to be built.
Anti-Displacement Strategic Plan
PolicyLink launched the All-In Cities Anti-Displacement Policy Network in April 2018 with the goal of helping people of incomes and ethnicities achieve increased housing security and avoid displacement. Composed of 64 local leaders from 10 cities across the country, the network has developed an Anti-Displacement Strategic Plan (ADSP) that builds public awareness, includes anti-displacement roadmaps and encourages policy and thought leadership. Redwood City is currently in the process of developing an anti-displacement strategic plan. More information about ADSP can be found here.