On Wednesday, November 2 the City Council met in Study Session to discuss the feedback that the Town received from the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). As part of the 6th Cycle Housing Element Update, the State has mandated that the Town plan for the development of 348 new housing units at specified affordability levels. The Town does not have to physically produce the new housing units but must plan for and encourage their development through land use (zoning) and housing policy programs. Further, the Town must periodically report to HCD on the effectiveness of the Town's zoning and policy programs and if the housing units are not being produced at the requisite affordability levels the Town is required to do more.
The affordability levels are based on the County's affordable housing categories and income limits, not the Town's. The Town must plan for the production of housing at the following affordability rates and housing numbers:
|Income Level||Required Housing Units|
|Very Low (less than 50% of the area median income)|
Max. Income: $63,950 for single person to $91,350 for family of 4
|Low (50% to 80% of the area median income)|
Max. Income: $102,450 for single person to $146,350 for family of 4
|Moderate (80% to 120% of the area median income)|
Max. Income: $125,640 for single person to $179,520 for family of 4
|Above Moderate (more than 120% of the area median income)|
Market Rate Housing
The feedback that the Town received from the State is extensive and in addition to requiring additional analysis on the Town's programs and policies, requires deeper analysis on the new requirements related to Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing. The feedback also raised issues related to school site development, SB9 development, by-right development policies, limited variety of land use, and commitment to local land use changes. However, the biggest challenge the Town faces with HCD's response relates to the production and rental of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). The Town's Draft Housing Element relies heavily on the production and rental of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on private property throughout Town. HCD's comments cast doubt on the community's ability to produce the units at the rates specified in the Draft Element (35 per year) and HCD asserts that even if those units are produced they do not believe that the units will be openly rented at the required rates of affordability. The Town has an open ADU Survey that seeks to gauge the interest of the community to produce and rent ADUs. If you have not yet taken the opportunity to complete the Survey, we encourage you to do so. To meet the requirements of the State mandate, ADUs must not only be rented at the affordability rates noted above, but must also be a part of an annual monitoring program that can be reported to the State to ensure that the Town is meeting the requirements.
The Town is required to have a certified Housing Element by the statutory deadline of January 31, 2023. A certified Housing Element is one that meets the requirements of State law and the State's mandates for the 6th Cycle Regional Housing Needs Allocation applicable to Atherton - essentially the local production of housing units at the requisite affordability levels. Failure to have a certified Housing Element by the statutory deadline of January 31, 2023 opens the Town up to possible financial penalties from the State, potential litigation from housing developers and housing advocacy groups, and the potential loss of local land use and development authority. The timing, reality, and risk of any of these is something that the City Council must weigh when making the policy decisions related adoption of a Housing Element.
The City Council will meet on Thursday, November 17 at a Special Meeting/Study Session to review the HCD letter in detail. Staff will review the letter, paragraph by paragraph. Staff will advise as to what each paragraph means, where the requirements are or are not rooted in statute, and what a possible plan may be to address the issues raised. The City Council will discuss these issues and may raise policy questions related to compliance which may include a review of land use and zoning, by-right development, and SB9. Following the November 17 meeting, staff will analyze any policy issues raised by the Council and return to a second Special Meeting/Study Session on Thursday, December 15 where the Council will narrow down any policy related questions and provide final direction to staff.
Once staff has had an opportunity to refine the Housing Element, the Council will host a Town Hall meeting and staff will facilitate a series of distributed neighborhood meetings to gather additional feedback. It is hoped that following this effort, the Town will produce a final document for adoption and submission to the State by the January 31, 2023 deadline.
Should you have any questions on the process or State requirements, feel free to send me an email or attend one of the several planned meetings. To learn more about ADUs, visit the Town's Accessory Dwelling Unit webpage.