Living up to Mill Valley’s housing goals

Updated: Jun 2, 2018

POSTED: 08/21/17, 1:46 PM PDT | UPDATED: ON 08/21/2017

Publication: Marin Independent Journal: Editorial

(Robert Tong/Marin Independent Journal)


One of Mill Valley’s city goals is to “encourage the continued diversity of housing, income levels and lifestyles in the community.”

Given market pressures on real estate prices and rent, achieving that goal is difficult — and only promises to get more difficult.

But the Mill Valley City Council appears committed to try and is poised to raise an affordable housing construction fund by levying a 1 percent fee on construction valued at $100,000 or more.

That fee, the city estimates, could raise $500,000 per year.

The city’s program has been called “a work in progress” in terms of coming up with plans for using the money.

One possibility would be to help pay for buying existing properties and preserving them as affordable housing.

City Hall ran into a hurdle with its fledgling plan as many homeowners preparing to remodel complained about the proposed fee and the cost it would add to their projects.

The City Council, in response, has postponed levying the fee for a year.

The delay might spark a mini-boom in remodeling, but it also gives the city time to come up with a well-defined plan for making use of the revenue.

How to use local housing funds has been a dilemma for other Marin jurisdictions. Some collected the cash and set it aside, but real estate values and costs eroded the buying power of the unused funds.

The county, on the other hand, has had success using its housing fund to buy and preserve existing affordable housing. That’s a lot less expensive and takes less time than new construction.

The nexus for the county’s fee has been that the charge helps create housing for the workforce involved in construction or those service providers for work around the residence in the future.

Mill Valley’s fee would also help put the city in line for state funding from housing initiatives on lawmakers’ agenda in Sacramento.

Mill Valley may not be Mountain View, where city officials have nearly 16,000 housing units either approved or under review. Mill Valley doesn’t have acres upon acres of land readily available or suited for development — or redevelopment.

But the city, in approving its housing fee, is recognizing that it needs to focus on its stated goal — a goal that is going to need a revenue source.

It is a Mill Valley-sized initiative to help come up with some homegrown answers.

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