The Flawed Concept of “Workforce Housing”

Listening to the Marin County Supervisors we would be led to believe there is no higher priority than to provide “workforce housing“. “We can reduce the impacts of in-commuting by…building workforce housing would enable people working in Marin to live closer to their jobs.” Supervisor Sears, Feb 21st 2014 Facebook page “It’s important that we build healthy and sustainable communities by allowing those who work in Marin to also live here,”  Supervisor Arnold, Sept 2011 “To increase the stock of affordable housing, especially workforce housing, the Marin County Board of Supervisors enacted the Affordable Housing Impact Fee.” This is a $5 or a $10 per square foot fee imposed on new builds and remodels. An existing 1,800 square foot house with a 700 square foot addition or conversion will be assessed $2,500. Source. The concept of providing workforce housing underpins stated policy not just from Marin County Supervisors but also the Association of Bay Area Governments’ Plan Bay Area: “The job growth forecast was adjusted based on the difficulties in supplying sufficient housing in the Bay Area to meet the needs of workforce housing within reasonable commute times. ” Source: Plan Bay Area, page 15, Employment Forecast Workforce Housing – The Premise & Alleged Benefits The concept presumes that by building affordable housing in a county: more county workers who used to live outside the county will be able to live in the county traffic congestion will be reduced greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced. A quick Google search constrained to the Marin County website references the term “workforce housing” in 340 separate documents. The same term appears in 160 documents...

Whose Fault Was the WinCup Disaster?

Today WinCup has become famous as a disaster to both sides of the housing debate: Measured growth advocates point to a monstrosity that is a major departure from the architectural character of Marin, will impose major traffic impact and provides barely any (just 18 units) affordable housing Fast growth new urbanists recognize that it is the highly visible monument that lost them the hearts and minds of mainstream Marin residents. It is right next to 101 where on a peak day as many as 591,000 people drive by according to Caltrans 2013 traffic counts. Some blame the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) which imposed housing quotas on Corte Madera that the city had to plan for – failing which it was sure to be sued by housing advocates for “failing to deliver its fair share” of afforable housing. Others lay the blame on the Corte Madera city council. Both are both partially right a, but they overlook an entity that was fare more responsible for the fiasco that was WinCup. The Real Story of WinCup While it will be impossible to completely join the dots here is the real story behind WinCup that I’ve learned: 1) ABAG gave Corte Madera a ludicrously high target that it must plan for 244 housing units.This was preposterously high for a city that councilors tell me is near completely built out. The city already had identified locations for about 60 units, but there was very limited remaining land available that wasn’t in a flood plain. Later into the process Corte Madera objected and ABAG dialed the quote back to about 70 units,...