Adding housing for residents who achieve more than 120% of the median income in the area is the largest component (2,621 out of 6,086) or more than 40% of Palo Alto’s RHNA housing target. These units will be almost all apartments, houses, condominiums, and ADUs. As a result of its small size, most of it will be in
$1-2 million range for sale and equivalent for rent.I understand that many residents, councilors, and candidates place a higher priority on increasing the number of BMR units but the two goals are actually complementary rather than opposite.
Adding housing at market price has also added benefits.
Market Price Housing Helps Add BMR
Under the council approved Planned Housing District (PHZ) program, applicants must include 20% of their BMR units. Other market price developments must include at least 15% BMR.
The board recently heard 3 pre-screens for projects involving 20% of BMR units as part of the PHZ program that allows the board to waive some development criteria to make the project viable. The board has been generally supportive and I hope this leads to actual applications. Next week, the board will hear a preview on a project at ECR and Matadero that would include 76 BMR units, more than the Wilton Court project.
The board previously approved two projects that comprise 15% of BMR’s units — in San Antonio and West Bayshore.
All new projects will continue to be evaluated by the board if applications are submitted, but the relationship between market price units and BMR units is clear.
Market-rate housing adds higher-income clients to our small business
I, along with many/most residents, city council members and candidates, support adding more housing for low-income residents.
However, in Town Square and elsewhere, I often hear talk of BMR housing being added primarily or just paired with a call for more retail. I don’t think this works from an economic point of view. Many small businesses are struggling with losing customers due to online shopping, the pandemic, and especially for our restaurants, losing customers during the day to work from home.
Adding fixed-rate housing will help add higher-income clients, something I think will be appreciated by small businesses and city budgets.
Once again, the coupling of BMR and market-rate housing helps achieve multiple goals for the city.
Market-priced housing can help avoid school closures and program cuts
12th grade enrollment continued to decline in the new school year even as COVID cases decreased and schools returned to normal. This is especially true in lower grades. These declines will continue, in the absence of a significant amount of new housing, as birth rates continue to decline.
This is not a financial problem for the district as we are funded by property taxes, but it can lead to the closure or consolidation of schools that are too small to operate effectively and to program rebate where attendance is too small to support all programs. So some students are likely to miss out on a neighborhood school unless enrollment starts to increase.
For many years the narrative about housing and schools was that more housing would create burdens. This story has now been turned upside down. More housing is likely the only way to prevent inconvenience to parents, students, and the district.
This is true for all residences including BMR residences.
Market-rate housing can give seniors the option to downsize and stay in Palo Alto
Most of our friends of our time still live in the single family home. But some, as we did, sold their homes and bought a smaller and often less expensive place near the services and shopping. Some have moved to places like Channing House.
As the years go by, more seniors may not want or need their own larger family home and want to stay in Palo Alto but in an environment with less maintenance and more access.
I think there will be a market for housing like the downtown apartment we live in that will help the elderly downsize and at the same time open up bigger homes for families. I wonder if the market exists for another facility like Channing House.
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