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Op-Ed: Mayor, Supervisor Support Huffman's Affordable Housing Bill

Mayor Madeline Kellner and Supervisor Judy Arnold support legislation written by Marin's assemblyman in Sacramento to make housing mandates for cities more reasonable.

Op-Ed: Mayor, Supervisor Support Huffman's Affordable Housing Bill Op-Ed: Mayor, Supervisor Support Huffman's Affordable Housing Bill Op-Ed: Mayor, Supervisor Support Huffman's Affordable Housing Bill Op-Ed: Mayor, Supervisor Support Huffman's Affordable Housing Bill

Novato Mayor Madeline Kellner and Marin County Supervisor Judy Arnold of Novato have shared responses to Assemblyman Jared Huffman's bill, AB 1103, which cleared a significant hurdle Wednesday in Sacramento. Kellner and Arnold were both at the Capitol to appear before a committee that was considering the bill. Here are their op-ed views sent to Novato Patch.

By Madeline Kellner, Mayor, City of Novato

Marin and Novato’s efforts to seek flexibility in how we meet the state’s housing element requirements cleared the first hurdle on Wednesday, April 27 at the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.  Assembly Member Huffman’s bill, AB 1103, passed out of committee with amendments and is now on its way to be heard at the Assembly Local Government Committee on May 11. 

Assembly Member Huffman invited me, as Mayor of Novato, along with Judy Arnold, District 5 Supervisor, and Katie Crecelius, affordable housing advocate and developer, to testify at the hearing in support of AB 1103.  DeAnn Baker, CSAC legislative staff, also testified in support of the flexibility the bill would offer counties throughout the state to develop compliant housing elements.  See below for how to watch the video of the hearing. 

To recap, while updating the City of Novato’s housing element this past year, concerned members of the community, the city council, and the board of supervisors raised questions about the state parameters within which the drafted element must be developed.  These concerns include: Novato falling under the metropolitan default density of 30 units/acre rather than the suburban default of 20 units/acre, not being able to count rehabilitated units in properties of under 4 units, accessory units converted to affordable units, or foreclosed properties converted to affordable units. 

Assembly Member Huffman heard our concerns and drafted AB 1103.  This bill includes provisions that allow jurisdictions such as ours more flexibility as to how we meet the housing numbers assigned to us.  Three areas are addressed in the bill:  1) allows jurisdictions to apply to the council of governments (like ABAG for our area) to change the default density, 2) permits jurisdictions to count converted foreclosed and rehabilitated units under 4 units and converted second units as long as they have affordability restrictions, and 3) grants an incentive to jurisdictions that create housing near transit by allowing them to count such units at a rate of 1.5.

AB 1103 passed the first gate and is still a “live” bill; however the challenges ahead are not to be underestimated.  While waiting to testify, we observed the hearings for several other affordable housing bills and got the keen sense that the committee chair, members and staff are very reluctant to grant modifications to state affordable housing law.  A number of references were made to the spotty track record around the state of jurisdictions producing the level of affordable housing needed. 

On a positive note, Housing California lobbyist Julie Snyder, also testified at the hearing, neither in opposition or support but to offer to work with Assembly Member Huffman and the Housing Committee staff to relook at the default density provision.  This is the area that poses the most difficulty for many jurisdictions, not just Marin, in creating housing elements that are both state compliant and consistent with the unique characteristics of their local communities.

Many thanks go to Assembly Member Huffman and his staff for their hard work on this bill and to the groups and individuals who wrote letters of support.  Stay tuned — your continued support will be needed.

To watch the AB 1103 hearing, go to www.calchannel.com/channel/viewVideo/2371 and scroll to 11:15.  To obtain more information on the bill go to www.leginfo.ca.gov , Daily Updates—Assembly Bills and click on AB 1103. 

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By Judy Arnold, Marin County Supervisor, District 5 (Novato)

I went to Sacramento on Wednesday to testify for Jared Huffman’s AB 1103 before the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development. Novato Mayor Madeline Kellner and affordable housing advocate Katie Crecelius also attended to testify in support of the bill.

Assemblyman Huffman and I began working together last year to explore changes in housing element law after being contacted by several neighborhood representatives frustrated with Novato's efforts to meet state-mandated housing requirements. Our goal was to find opportunities for a broader range of options and flexibility for local jurisdictions to receive state housing element credits. After a collaborative effort between my office, local cities, affordable housing advocates and neighborhood groups, Assemblyman Huffman introduced AB 1103. For more information on the bill, click here.

We all know how important it is to provide workforce housing and improve social equity in Marin. I think this bill allows us to maintain these goals by providing more flexibility to local jurisdictions and at the same time helping to keep the essence and character of each of our unique communities in Marin.

I am pleased to announce that AB 1103 was approved by the committee Wednesday —  with some amendments. Assemblyman Huffman intends to pursue flexibility on density default designations as the bill progresses through the legislative process.  

AB 1103 will be considered next by the Assembly Committee on Local Government on May 11.

I look forward to sharing more information as AB 1103 moves through the legislative process.

To watch the committee hearing, click here. Scroll to 11:15 on the time bar at the bottom of the video to jump right to the AB 1103 item.

A big “thank you” to Assemblyman Huffman for continuing to champion this effort on Novato’s behalf!

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