Raise limit on income, builder asks

Rebecca Rosen Lum
Knight Ridder Tribune Business News [Washington]

Mar. 7–Shapell Industries today will ask Contra Costa supervisors to allow people whose incomes top $100,000 to qualify for the 5,170-unit rental portion of its Dougherty Valley development.

The homebuilder, along with partner Lennar Homes, had agreed to set aside 10 percent of the units for very low-income earners and 25 percent for low-income earners. Most of the designated housing — 65 percent — would be made available to those of moderate income.

But too few moderate income earners have shown interest in the rentals. The Shapell-Windemere group now seeks to increase the moderate-income renter limit from $98,650 to a maximum of $123,300.

The developers hope that upping the income limit will attract enough renter interest to ease cash-flow problems.

The change is temporary and would apply only to rental units in the Windemere section of the development, said James Kennedy, director of community development. The county exacted a concession in exchange.

“We said, ‘OK, we’ll allow you to rent to folks with a little higher income, but in exchange, you must extend the term of availability for twice as long,'” he said. “So we’ll get more affordability at the end of the day.”

While the qualifying income level would otherwise remain flat for five years, it will remain so for 10, he said.

Raising the income level will allow local workers, who would not otherwise qualify for subsidized housing to live close to their jobs, which is an equally important consideration, Kennedy said.

Not necessarily, said San Ramon Mayor H. Abram Wilson.

“Will we have the opportunity to change it back, or will it be too late?” he said. “I have concerns. Ultimately, the city is going to be responsible. Are we shutting out a segment of the population that could no longer afford to live here?”

San Ramon also needs to meet state housing guidelines that are more stringent for it than for most cities. The city requires projects of 10 units or more to set aside 25 percent for the very- low to moderate-income buyers.

The board of supervisors is expected to pass an “inclusionary housing ordinance” by June, said Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond, the board chairman. The measure would call for a minimum number of affordable set-asides in all new developments in unincorporated Contra Costa.

The ordinance faces opposition from the Home Builders Association of Northern California and has the support of housing advocates, including the Non-Profit Housing Association.

Very-low income in Contra Costa County is $41,100 for a family of four, or 50 percent of the area’s $82,200 median income. Families pulling in $65,760 are considered low income, and a yearly income of $98,640 — 120 percent of the median — qualifies as moderate.

Bay Area-wide, 12 percent of households can afford a median- priced home, according to the Association of Bay Area Governments. In Contra Costa County, the percentage slips to 10.


Credit: Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, Calif. 07 Mar 2006

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