Affordable Housing on Evelyn Ave

Construction on a massive market-rate housing development abuts the end of recently built affordable housing along Evelyn Avenue in Mountain View.

The doors opened on a new, 100% affordable housing development in Mountain View last month, at the same time “No Parking” signs extended the ban on RVs used by those living along the city’s streets.

The 70 studios coming on the market at 950 W. El Camino Real can’t directly address the needs of the 200 or more families living in vehicles in the city, but the juxtaposition captures some of the push/pull in a city with pronounced ability to build, yet facing an uphill battle against enormous income disparity.

Mountain View’s move to ban the oversized vehicles used as dwellings from most city streets hasn’t occurred in isolation.

The city also has outpaced all of its neighbors in actively building new housing, including substantial developments reserved for families with lower-than-median income.

In a Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury report released Dec. 16, the jury juxtaposed Mountain View’s coordinated near-term planning with what it described as lackluster community involvement and scattered plans and policies in Palo Alto, which has had less commercial, residential and mixed-use development.

Los Altos faces a Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) target of 1,158 new housing units by 2031. Los Altos Hills’ RHNA target is 489. Mountain View has been challenged by the state to build 11,135 units, nearly twice as many as Palo Alto and far more than any city in San Mateo County.

In a statement about the grand jury’s report, Mountain View Mayor Ellen Kamei said she appreciated the recognition of her city’s “long-time commitment and community support for building more affordable housing,” and pointed to two upcoming examples of continued momentum in plans to redevelop a downtown parking lot and a former park-and-ride lot as two new affordable housing structures in the near future.

Goals and eligibility

Each jurisdiction must plan for housing that meets a variety of local needs, from expensive market-rate rentals and condos to heavily subsidized housing. By the grand jury report’s calculation, a family breadwinner would have to make more than $40 per hour to afford the county’s average rent, and rents are higher than average in Mountain View. Minimum wage goes up 5% next month in Mountain View – to $17.10.

As it defines housing goals and eligibility, the county works with benchmarks that define “low income” as making less than 80% of area media income, which in 2021 means $117,750 for a family of four.

For families categorized as “extremely low income,” making less than $49,700 (which is still substantially more than minimum wage), the region only has housing stock for approximately one in three households, a deficit the jury directly linked to local homelessness, which continues to increase.

The state has tasked Mountain View with building 2,926 below-market-rate units by next year, and city spokesperson Lenka Wright said approximately 600 prospective units are entering the pipeline, but many remain early in the project approval process. A total of 1,206 units appear on the city’s list of new and prospective developments with affordable and/or below-market-rate components, ranging from 50 affordable units under construction at 660 Mariposa Ave. to 65 below-market-rate units under construction at 1720 Villa St. If all were completed by 2023, that would almost double Mountain View’s income-sensitive housing stock.

The city council and city staff have broken down neighborhoods into 25 “precise plans” to identify areas amenable to future housing development and clarify which densities and design standards apply in each zone.

Mountain View has successfully moved a boom of construction – of all types – through the planning process and into reality, with work zones and construction netting visible this month along many of the city’s thoroughfares.

The city currently tallies 1,508 completed below-market-rate units, including relatively recent projects like the Evelyn Family Apartments, a 2018 development of 114 units at the intersection of Evelyn and Bernardo avenues that is fully occupied. Like other projects designated as “100% affordable developments,” that complex of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments is exclusively available to those making 60% or less of the county’s area median income.

The county uses a complex income calculation figure, updated each year, that adjusts for family size to determine eligibility. For the 70 studios just coming on the market at Luna Vista, the new building at 950 W. El Camino Real, local renters would need to make at least $34,000 a year, the equivalent of full-time minimum wage, to qualify for one of the units, but can’t make more than $81,000 as an individual, or $92,820 as a family of two.

The apartment floor plans range from 380 to 420 square feet, and rent for the units ranges from $1,382 to $1,659.

Fifteen units in the building have been set aside for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Alta Housing runs the development, which in addition to a community room and computer lab includes a large roof deck with views of the bay and the hills that ring the region.

By

Reporter

Eliza Ridgeway edits the Food & Wine, Camps, Bridal, Celebrations and Beyond the Classroom sections at the Town Crier, as well as reporting for all sections of the paper.