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Adopt New Requirements for Affordable Housing in Multi-Unit Developments - YES

Like most issues that touch on housing and land use, this is a complex one, and while I will provide a high-level overview here, you can get a more detailed understanding here.

Since 2003, Corte Madera has had rules requiring developers who build new multifamily housing developments in town (i.e. new apartment buildings) to either price a portion of those units at below market rate (to create affordable housing in town) or make a contribution to the Town's Affordable Housing Fund.

As state laws changed and the housing market grew more lopsided, it became clear that we needed to update these requirements, but there's a delicate balance to be struck: too lax of requirements, and you end up with no affordable housing in your town (and violating state law). Too stringent, and you end up killing all development of any kind—and violating state law.

Over the past months, our Planning and Building staff have been working hard on developing an update to our affordable housing requirements ("inclusionary housing policy," as it's called) that makes sense for Corte Madera, while collaborating with neighboring cities where appropriate, to save taxpayer dollars by not reinventing the wheel.

The proposal that I voted to adopt includes a number of strategic changes to better address the community's housing needs, while fulfilling the Town's legal obligations under state law. Overall, the percentage of units in a multifamily development required to be below market rate (which, frankly, is often still a far cry from what many people would call "affordable") was reduced from 25% to 20%, to alleviate a former barrier to housing production.

In addition, the distribution of those units among the very low-, low-, and moderate-income categories was redesigned. Recognizing that each project is unique, a system was created to give developers two options on how they wanted to apportion those units, or make an in-lieu contribution to the Town's Affordable Housing Fund instead. The result is that developers have more flexibility to make their projects pencil out, while still providing required affordable housing.

Last, and perhaps most importantly, we revamped the formula for how that in-lieu fee is calculated. Under the prior formula, the in-lieu fee was calculated in a way that often came out to $0, even for relatively substantial projects. In effect, this allowed developers to simply say "no thanks" to affordable housing. However, under the new formula, we expect meaningful contributions to Corte Madera's Affordable Housing Fund to come from all but the smallest new developments, allowing us to make real progress on our affordable housing goals over the coming years.


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