The order of presentation was chosen randomly. Regular Tattler stories will be interspersed in the 2016 election questionnaire. Readers wishing to peruse all the answers by an individual may use the search bar function by entering ”Election 2016 Candidates Questionnaire” with the name of the candidate and all of that candidate’s sections will be presented. Alternatively just typing in the name of the candidate will also work.
There are six candidates running for three seats and all answered our questionnaire save candidate for City Council Brynnda Collins.
Today, candidate for City Council John Bauters, who answers questions on affordable housing:
John Bauters is a member of the Emeryville Planning Commission, Housing Committee and chair of the Measure K Parcel Tax Oversight Committee at Emery Unified. He is also a member of the Park Avenue Resident's Committee that recently negotiated a community benefits agreement with Lennar Corp, the Sherwin Williams developer. John works as policy director at a nonprofit that advocates for increased state funding to community-based programs that provide mental health care, addiction treatment and trauma recovery services. He lives in the Park Avenue District with his partner Aaron and their dog, King.
Bauters for Emeryville City Council
4260 Halleck Street
4260 Halleck Street
Emeryville, CA 94608
For A Stronger Community
Section 1 Housing Affordability
With each passing year, Emeryville becomes less affordable, regardless of the epic residential building spree over the last 20 years here. Emeryville has never built housing at a pace even close to what we have done recently. And yet, affordable housing remains Emeryville’s most intractable problem most people agree.
Tattler: Emeryville’s affordability rate right now is approximately 11% city-wide according to City Hall using their metrics. We had more than 30 years of the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency (RDA) who’s primary function was providing affordable housing and 11% is the sum total we could muster with all the largess that agency could bring to bear. How do you see us raising the 11% average appreciably in the post Redevelopment Agency era?
John Bauters: Several strategies exist for raising the percentage of affordable homes in Emeryville. Our development bonus point system was amended to require that any construction over 10 units include not less than 12% affordability in most cases - a good start. The percentage of units that must be affordable increases as the number of bonus points needed by the developer to get project approval increases. Personally, I believe the starting point should be higher than the current level. The city should also make additional properties that it owns into affordable housing opportunities, much like it has done with the property at 3706 San Pablo. Finally, the city needs to protect the existing below market rate (BMR) ownership homes it acquired with redevelopment funds. BMR units in foreclosure are at risk of losing their affordability covenants and the city must step in under its right of first refusal privilege to acquire and resell these homes, keeping them affordable for the future. This ensures we don't actually lose any ground on our affordability. The most recent capital improvement plan the city approved included a recommendation I made with the support of my fellow members of the city's Housing Committee, creating a self-financing revolving fund the city can use to intervene and prevent loss of these units during the foreclosure process.
Tattler: Emeryville, formerly an industrial wasteland with lots of abandoned warehouses and factories in the 1980’s has been almost completely rebuilt now with lots of housing and shopping centers. Seeing so little fallow land left and the housing stock that we have is mostly less than 25 years old, where will we build the affordable housing that we need?
John Bauters: The opportunity to build affordable housing in the city is limited to the extent that formerly available sites/land have already been redeveloped. I support several goals going forward: (1) Prioritizing city-owned properties in residential and mixed-use zones for future affordable housing development; (2) Providing additional procedural protections to safeguard our existing affordable ownership housing stock from losing its affordability; and (3) Regularly evaluating the impact fees and bonus point percentages required of market rate developers to ensure we maximize affordability as a community benefit in future development.
Tattler: Urban density is generally recognized as a net positive thing. However, increasing density also comes with its own problems, overcrowding of parks and traffic being among them. Emeryville right now has more than 200% of recommended market rate housing according to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). How do you suggest we increase affordability without increasing our existing 200% of market rate housing more? Is ABAG wrong?
John Bauters: The only economically plausible way to increase affordability without increasing market rate housing is to build 100% affordable housing. The other way the city could increase affordability would be to purchase existing market-rate housing and sell it back out through one of our below market rate ownership programs. When we had RDA affordable housing funds and the housing market was cheaper this was a viable option. Given the current fair market value of housing and the loss of RDA dollars, this is no longer a financially feasible option and so the only economically viable solution to your question would require 100% affordable development.
Tattler: 'Supply and demand' is central to classical economics as everyone knows. Here in Emeryville, developers and some others are using this argument to forward a position that the problem in Emeryville is that we haven't been building enough housing and that's why its so expensive here. Yet at 200% ABAG recommendations for market rate housing (and going higher), the more we build, the higher the housing costs go. Neighboring cities have built less than 100% of ABAG recommendations. Does Emeryville have to be a sacrifice zone for the greater region to satiate the supply and demand axiom posited by some?
John Bauters: While it might appear to be a simple principle, the "supply and demand" approach to development ignores the gravity of our current affordability crisis. The independent California Budget and Policy Center estimates that California has a supply deficit of over 1 million units of affordable housing. The reality is that affordability will not "trickle down" to the lowest-income households until supply fully catches up with demand under the economic principles of supply and demand - something that would not happen for decades, even with massive investment. In the interim, what we experience is displacement, where increased rents push lower and fixed-income residents, often seniors and working families, out of their homes. Market rate developers will commonly argue in favor of the "supply and demand" approach to development for another reason - because all housing built after 1995 is exempt from rent control under state law. Allowing for a boon of market rate housing development means less housing that is subject to either affordability or rent stabilization protections, creating a situation that allows for maximum rents without protections for renters. In order to preserve households of all incomes who live and work here we must build housing for all income levels as we go. This means a more strategic approach to development that balances market principles with the affordability needs of people from all levels of the economic spectrum.