Novato looking at subsidized housing

POSTED: 07/30/18

Author: Chris Rooney

Publication: Marinscope

To provide housing for teachers, policemen and firemen who serve Novato, city officials are working with the Novato Unified School District (NUSD) in a joint venture. The City Council recently asked City Manager Regan Candelario to discuss the feasibility of using city or district properties for housing projects.

School officials, like many municipal departments in the county, say it’s becoming more difficult to hire and retain staff when the employees cannot afford to live within close proximity of their jobs. It’s long been a battle cry in places like Sausalito, Larkspur and Mill Valley, where growth is close to nil and housing rates are staggering — city staffers must live far away.

Also, in the case of disasters, mayhem can ensue. The massive fires in Sonoma County in October of last year proved many Marin-based employees who commute daily down Highway 101 simply couldn’t get to work.

Not everyone is on board, as Novato councilmembers Pat Eklund and Pam Drew voted against the idea.

“Novato has more affordable housing than any other city in Marin County … and I have and continue to support affordable housing,” said Eklund in an email to the Novato Advance.

Clearly, Eklund isn’t opposed to the overall goal of creating affordable housing, but wasn’t entirely approving of the methods being proposed.

“The concern I had with the proposed MOU between the NUSD and the City of Novato was that the City of Novato did not do any public outreach or conduct a public workshop on whether or not the City should be a partner with the NUSD on the San Andreas site given that in 2010 this site was one of the most controversial sites proposed for affordable housing,” she wrote.

A staff report indicated that properties in San Marin are being investigated for housing — one owned by the district, another by the city.

UNSD Superintendent Jim Hogeboom said “We have been discussing the possibility of teacher housing in NUSD for a little over a year. This is driven by our desire to attract and retain the best teachers and employees as possible, and the high cost of housing is a key barrier towards this goal.”

Hogeboom emphasized that the idea is still in the very early stages. “That is why the feasibility study is so important. This data will be the foundation of our conversations with the community, and will allow for robust, thorough discussions. I think the vast majority of neighbors understand the need for housing and want it to be done in a way that fits into the San Marin neighborhood. We share that goal and look forward to having those discussions.”

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