Marin might let public housing residents buy units
Supervisor pitches idea for Golden Gate Village
Author: Richard Halstead
PUBLICATION: Marin Independent Journal
Marin County Supervisor Damon Connolly wants the Marin Housing Authority to consider offering residents of Golden Gate Village a path to home ownership as part of the revitalization plan for the 59-year-old public housing complex.
“As we go forward with revitalization what kind of opportunities might there be to look at home ownership for residents of Golden Gate Village?” Connolly asked housing authority executive director Lewis Jordan when the Board of Supervisors received an update last month on the revitalization effort.
Connolly said he was aware of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 32 Program, which allows public housing authorities to make their public housing residences available for purchase by low-income families as their principal home.
“This would have to be evaluated but I think it would be worthwhile to look at,” Connolly told Jordan.
In March, supervisors authorized the housing authority to enter into an agreement with New Jersey-based Michaels Development Co. to begin a draft revitalization plan to rehabilitate Golden Gate Village.
Jordan responded to Connolly, “I think if our partner, Michaels, was in the room today, they would clearly say that in this process of community values meetings that they’re having any and everything is on the table.”
Marin’s largest public housing project, Golden Gate Village consists of eight high-rise and 20 low-rise buildings on about 32 acres in Marin City.
Because of decades of insufficient funding from the federal government, it has been estimated the complex requires $16 million in immediate improvements to bring it up to minimum Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards and another $50 million in work for complete rehabilitation using energy-saving and green building approaches.
During Tuesday’s meeting, however, Jordan said a routine 2018 inspection of the housing authority’s properties by HUD found significantly fewer health and safety deficiencies than the previous year.
“We saw a 40 percent overall reduction in observed health and safety deficiencies from 2017,” Jordan said.
Some Golden Gate Village residents have expressed concern that the revitalization will result in current tenants being displaced and have opposed the idea of building new market-rate units to help finance the project. They fear that fully-subsidized units will be replaced with market-rate units.
Michaels has begun outreach to the community, and a new round of meetings is scheduled to begin next month.
“I’m hoping we can work toward homeownership,” Marin City resident Damian Morgan said during Tuesday’s meeting.
Several Marin City residents expressed similar support for the idea of homeownership for Golden Gate Village residents. They, however, advocated for the creation of a community land trust to assume ownership of Golden Gate Village from the county, instead of utilizing HUD’s Section 32 program.
Jordan said the community land trust idea is a nonstarter.
“The definition of a land trust as presented to you is to take Golden Gate Village from the housing authority and your board and just give it to an entity that has no history or proof of being able to manage and/or run housing,” Jordan told supervisors. “No. HUD is not going to do that. They’ve made it very clear.”
Nevertheless, Jordan said, HUD has also made it clear it has “a desire to see housing authorities come out from under the public housing umbrella.”
The Section 32 program permits housing authorities to use their funds to help public housing residents or other low-income families afford to purchase public housing units. This can come in the form of a down payment, closing cost assistance, subordinate mortgages or below-market financing.
Eligible purchasers may earn up to 80% of the area median family income. Affordability standards must be met for the purchaser; the sum of the applicant’s payments, on an average monthly basis, must not exceed the sum of 35% of the applicant’s income and any subsidy provided.
And each household purchasing housing must use its own resources to contribute an amount of the down payment that is not less than 1% of the purchase price.
Jordan said the Section 32 program is just one avenue that HUD is providing for housing authorities to reposition their properties out of the public housing stock.
Another avenue uses a process known as Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), which involves converting public housing units to one of HUD’s Section 8 voucher programs.
In 2018, Tampa-based CVR Associates, which was hired to assess revitalization scenarios for Golden Gate Village, came up with two feasible options; both called for RAD conversion of the units. CVR deemed RAD conversion essential to the financial feasibility of the rehab since it allows for the use of private capital.
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