Editor's Note: This is the first in an installment of two articles on affordable housing and public transportation on the Peninsula. Next time, Patch will take a look at public transportation infrastructure.
A recent report released by the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California and Urban Habitat raises concerns about the lack of transportation and housing options available to lower income residents.
According to the report, entitled “Moving Silicon Valley Forward," the lack of affordable housing options, combined with the lack of public transportation options, has forced many lower-income families into spending as much as 70 percent of their income on transportation and housing alone.
Therefore, the authors contend, peninsula cities should endeavor to construct more affordable, centrally located housing units.
Recently in May, at the Cedar House Apartments in Redwood City.
The Transit Village Project in San Carlos, situated on land paralled by El Camino Real and the train tracks near the San Carlos depot, includes plans for affordable housing.
Proponents of creating affordable housing units contend that doing so will increase diversity and decrease commute times, resulting in reduced traffic congestion.
Affordable housing could also create opportunities for people who would otherwise be forced into tough choices involving a lengthy commute, or sub-standard accommodations.
Opponents of creating additional affordable housing units believe they decrease home values, increase burden on schools, and represent a law enforcement challenge.
Evelyn Stivers, the author of the report, says arguments against affordable housing have been shown to be unfounded.
“There are a lot of myths and a lot of fears about affordable housing,” said Stivers.
Stivers claims most affordable housing developments are built on underutilized land, helping to increase home values.
In addition, she claims that tax revenue produced by such communities compensates for the burden on the school system. A point addressed by the city of San Carlos in their discussion about the Transit Village Project.
Stuyver contends most affordable housing programs screen prospective residents to help avoid a law enforcement challenge.
For the most part, the people who qualify for affordable housing have incomes of 80 percent or below the average median income for the area as defined by the Affordable Housing Law.
The creation of affordable housing units can create opportunities, particularly for immigrants, according to Rod Diridon, Sr., Executive Director of the Mineta Transportation Institute and a former Chair of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisor.
“New people in our society who are working hard to enter society, but don’t have enough to buy a home, need a place to stay,” he told Patch.
Diridon also contends that due to the higher density of affordable housing units, the cities will be able to take in an increased property tax yield.
In principle, most peninsula cities claim to support affordable housing programs. San Carlos city council members have all publicly given it their support.
Even the Town of Atherton, sometimes given the reputation for being closed off to lower-income residents, has embraced affordable housing programs, according to Mayor Bill Widmer.
The town participates in programs pairing residents with housemates, and is looking into creating more affordable housing opportunities closer to El Camino Real.
However, Windmer said that the main obstacle in creating new affordable housing units is land.
“We’ve got limited space,” said Widmer.
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