Marin County Assemblyman Works To Avoid Affordable-Housing Requirement

SACRAMENTO (KPIX 5) — A Marin politician is angling to get his constituents another pass on a state requirement to build affordable housing.

In much of California, there is a delicate balance between making room for everyone and keeping the charm that draws people here in the first place.

But Marin Assemblyman Marc Levine got the assembly to approve a last-minute deal known as a budget trailer bill.

The deal extends Marin’s special status as a metropolitan area with suburban housing requirements.

“This policy would typically have gone through the housing committees in the legislature and possibly the local government committees, said Anya Lawler, a policy advocate with the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “It would be vetted and debated. The trailer bill process allows you to skip all that.”

The county — as well as the cities of San Rafael and Novato — don’t have to build projects as densely as other similar areas the state.

“It’s not okay. If you don’t do density, you don’t ever get affordability, because affordable housing developers have to build densely,” said Lawler.

There’s an obvious question here: why rush this through as a trailer bill?

“Sure. So I would say that this happened because of years of work since 2013 after I was elected in 2012,” said Levine. “It’s always a good time to make good policy so let’s seize the present.”

Sacramento insiders told KPIX 5 that Levine was able to orchestrate the county pass on affordable housing by supporting Governor Brown’s big gas tax increase.

Levine was a holdout, but eventually voted in favor of the increase.

When asked whether this part of the trailer bill was in exchange for his vote on the gas tax, Levine avoided specifics.

“This is an issue I’ve been working on since 2013 and I’ll continue working on it,” he said.

While AB 121 still has to pass the state senate, so far only Republicans are opposing it. The bill should sail right through to the Governors desk.

Regardless of what Levine told KPIX 5, many low-income residents would argue the need for affordable housing in Marin is greater than ever

Ratishia Kassa waited nearly a decade for a two-bedroom unit in Golden Gate Village in Marin City.

It’s the only public housing in the county for families.

The waiting list is in the thousands and includes many of her friends.

“I can name like ten people who are homeless right now and its scary,” said Kassa. “They can’t find a place.”

When KPIX 5 explained Levine move to waive Marin’s mandate to build more affordable housing, finding words was almost as hard as finding an affordable apartment:

“No. Uh, ummm, It’s just…crazy! Not good,” said Kassa.

Her neighbor Nathan Skinner didn’t have trouble expressing himself.

“I’d say, ‘You’re crazy,'” said Skinner.

The housing authority says its waiting list for public housing and section 8 totals about 4,000 people. There are thousands more waiting in lotteries for the affordable units in private complexes.

But while the demand for affordable housing is clearly there, the demand to maintain Marin’s character as it is has plenty saying ‘not in my backyard.’

“Let’s face it. Poverty is not welcome in Marin,” said Kassa. “There it is. It’s not welcome and never has been, so it’s getting harder, not easier on these streets.”

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