Every city in California has an obligation to provide its fair share of affordable housing. We would like our teachers, fire fighters, police, Town staff, service workers, other members of the COWmunity and their families to be able to live here. Given the price of land and limited developable space, the Town’s only answer to affordable housing has been a limited number of accessory rental living units.
All of the cities in San Mateo County have now agreed to a subregional plan. According to California housing officials, the Bay Area needs more than 200,000 new homes by 2014, and our County as a whole is responsible for creating more than 15,000 new units to meet its share of the increase. At least 39% of the housing units are supposed to be designated for low-income individuals and families. The San Mateo Daily Journal says the subregional plan would allow individual communities to bargain with their neighbors in order to avoid having to build additional or affordable housing. The article states, “Proponents say the unique method makes housing a stronger likelihood because jurisdictions limited by space or zoning can trade allocations with other cities or the county.” The Sub-Regional Housing Needs Allocation process adopted in the county has been allowed by the state for the past two years, but our County is the first to try it out.
The Plan designates the number of units for which each community is responsible. The City of San Mateo, with the largest share, is responsible for 3,051 units. According to the Redwood City Daily News, the Town of Woodside is responsible for just 65 new units of housing. The Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County says at least 41 new units in Woodside are supposed to be designated as ‘affordable’ .
The concern is that under the Subregional Plan, low-density, wealthy towns like ours, can pass off their housing responsibilities on to other cities, instead of changing their zoning codes and encouraging new housing. The Woodside Town COWncil must not to shirk from our Town’s responsibility to build our fair share of housing, including affordable housing.
Woodside’s Town Housing Element does encourage the development of affordable housing in our COWmunity, as a matter of policy. Few would disagree that the Town should have housing for the people that work here. People, who help make Woodside the livable community it is, should be able to live here. As a side benefit, if the Town staff lived here, they might have a very different, more practical, perspective on its regulations.
Woodside should step up and do what it can to ensure that people who are important to the COWmunity can live in the Town. We would like to see the Town seriously review what the possible options are. Is our zoning code with regard to rental units too restrictive? Can more be done to encourage rentals? What incentives for the building of affordable housing should be put in place so that people who work here can afford to live here? In 2003, the Town promised to develop a program of matching local public employees, interested in renting units in Town, with interested local landlords. To our knowledge, that program was never instituted. The time has come to have the open dialog, explore all possible options and make the necessary commitment.
Taking care of all of our COWmunity members is the right thing to do.