Berkeley City Council is considering changes to the city's Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee. This fee is paid by housing projects that provide market rate housing, with the money going into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The fee can be avoided by building the affordable homes on site, within the project. The fee is calculated as $34,000 per market rate unit,
The changes being considered by council will:
- Eliminate the option for projects with less than 10 homes to include affordable housing on site
- Increase market rate rents
- Do absolutely nothing to increase affordable housing production numbers
Eliminating the option for projects with less than 10 homes to include affordable housing on site means districts with burdensome restrictions on housing such as height limits, density maximums, lot sizes and so forth will be completely deprived of their potential for affordable housing. It is not a coincidence that these neighborhoods are mostly low density single family homes that have fought tooth and nail to keep development - and low income families - out of their neighborhood for decades.
When developers need to pay more money to build market rate housing, this necessarily leads to higher rents in the end. The proposed changes appear to treat market rate housing as a hazardous problem - despite the fact that market rate housing is where many families live while on the affordable housing wait lists - by reducing their contributions towards housing affordability.
Most importantly however, these changes do nothing to increase affordable housing construction! While the affordable housing trust fund might get some more cash, and the inclusionary zoning percentages might generate more affordable housing, the higher fees will eat up all those gains when fewer and fewer housing projects are able to pay the fee. This all but kills smaller family sized developers who aren't building luxury towers but instead want to fill out our Missing Middle of townhomes, small apartment buildings, and affordable-by-design solutions. These changes don't streamline affordable housing construction, they don't push back against the forces of gentrification and displacement, and they don't undo decades of exclusionary zoning in low density luxury single family home neighborhoods.
Before the City of Berkeley can vote on the ordinance, they're required to hold a public hearing on the fees which is scheduled for June 13th.
East Bay Forward is organizing to show up in council chambers on the 13th to tell Mayor Arreguin and his council that this is unacceptable. We demand real solutions to our housing shortage, not empty gestures while rents rise and families continue to be displaced. Sign up below to get involved: