Albany’s Housing Element

by | May 19, 2022

What is the Housing Element?

Housing Element is part of a General Plan adopted by a city, town or county that includes the goals, policies and programs that direct decision-making around housing. ~ Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG)

Albany's Housing Element

Every city in California is working right now on their Housing Element for 2023 -2031.  In the past,housing elements were seen as aspirational, but the state has said they will be strictly enforcing and may withhold state funds from cities that are not trying to meet housing element goals.  The Regional Housing Needs Assessment (pronounced reena) goals for Albany for 2023-2031 are

Very low income 308 units

Low 178 units

Moderate 175 units

Above moderate 453 units

Income levels

AMI is the areawide median income for Alameda County

State defined income categories

* extremely low income 0-30% AMI

* very low income 30%-50% AMI

* low income 50-80% AMI

* Moderate income 80%-120 AMI

* Above moderate income more than 120% of AMI

Housing costs includes rent or mortgage payments, utilities, property taxes, and homeowners or renters insurance. (page 3-15)

Some Terms

SAHA—Satellite Affordable Housing Associates—this is the nonprofit that is building and will manage the only all below market rate apartment building in Albany.

RHNA—Regional Housing Needs Assessment (pronounced reena) these are the numbers of units the state assigns each city to build during the cycle (2022-2031)

Fair Housing—this is the term used to describe the right to choose housing free from unlawful discrimination.  Under new state law SB686 jurisdictions must “affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH) particularly with respect to Housing Element updates”.  It is not enough not to discriminate; jurisdictions “must take meaningful actions to overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities”.

Exclusionary Zoning—this places restrictions on types of homes that can be built in a particular neighborhood.

Density bonus—this is a California state law to encourage the development of affordable housing. It could be up to a 50 % increase in project densities.

Currently Planned RHNA Projects
  • Satellite Affordable Housing Advocates

62 units, low and very low

  •  Albany Bowl

207 units, 21 very low, 186 moderate and above

  • 423 Evelyn

14 units, 2 low and very low, 12 moderate and above

Corrections and Suggestions

The Housing Element is huge.  I am just going to list changes I think should be made to the Housing Element

  1.  There are some minor errors in Chapter 3.  The City does not run the community shower program.  The city no longer provides “basic sanitation facilities” at the Community Center Parking Lot.(page 3-37).  The description of removing the homeless from the bulb (page 3-36) is a lovely fantasy.  
  2. Document red lining that took place in Albany.  In light of recent changes in State law, jurisdictions must first analyze current needs and conditions and the historical and structural causes of patterns of segregation before identifying adequate sites.
  3. Albany is appealing the RHNA numbers because UC is going to build 279 units and the city wants to include those units for RHNA numbers and they would count toward the lower incomes.  Those units are not available to just any Albany resident. Don’t waste city time, spend the time finding nonprofit builders.
  4. Create a Community Land Trust.  Give the land trust first right of refusal on any below market rate units that are built.
  5. There needs to be wording in the Housing Element that requires landlords to take subsidies such as Section 8 vouchers.  
  6. Get rid of single family only zoning.  This is a form of “exclusionary zoning” and was a way to keep people of color out of white neighborhoods.
  7. Vacant properties—the Housing Element lists vacant units.  The 2020 census showed that Albany had 414 vacant units.  It lists reasons such as for rent, for sale, rented or sold, but not occupied, seasonal and migrant units and “other vacant”.  There are 167 “other vacant” units in Albany.  The city needs to examine those units, particularly ones that may have been vacant in the last housing element to see if they would be suitable for a land trust.
  8. Just cause for evictions and other renter protections.
  9. Right now if a developer builds 7 or more units, 15% have to be below market rate.  Change that number to 20% of 4 units or more.  The State has final approval on this number.
  10. Change zoning so that the 10.79-acre Pierce Street Parcel be rezoned for “affordable” housing.  This may require a ballot measure. 
  11. Pass an ordinance that makes it illegal to discriminate against persons have housing voucher or other subsidies to pay for rent.
What is Section 8?

Section 8 is a voucher program run by the federal govt dept of Housing and Urban Development.  The subsidy is paid directly to the landlord.   To qualify a renter has to make no more than 50% of the median income for Alameda County.  There is a waiting list of one to two years. (If a renter pays more than 50% of income on housing they get priority for vouchers). According to the Housing Element (page 3-32) 77.1% of Albany renters pay more than 50% of income on housing.  Many would be eligible for Section 8.  In fact, the housing element (page 3-21) shows that 799 households are eligible for Section 8 vouchers.   In 2019 the city of Berkeley had 1,526 Section 8 units.  The City of Albany—11.

The City can enact some measures to help with this. California state law prohibits tenant discrimination based on source of income, but state definition of income does not include vouchers.  Berkeley passed an ordinance to make it illegal to discriminate against renters who use housing vouchers

Who is APRA?

Albany Property Rights Advocates (APRA)

The landlords of Albany started APRA in 2018 in response to the SEJC pushing for protections for renters. DHWG got a list of names and addresses of all Albany Landlords. In 2018 there were about 900 landlords on the list, but only 300 of them actually live in Albany. 300 landlords vs 53% renters but renters have rarely been represented on the City Council or committees. The president of APRA is Peter Campbell, an Albany landlord.  Mr. Campbell owns his home here, plus a 6-unit apartment building plus at least one other building in El Cerrito. Nevertheless, APRA would consider him a “mom-and-pop.” Perhaps when compared to the corporations buying up rental properties at a frantic pace in the East Bay.

Moms 4 Oakland

Moms 4 Oakland is about a movement that started in Oakland.  It can be a good model for Albany.  Four mothers took over an abandoned house in Oakland.  The landlord sued them.  They countersued and the landlord sold the house to a housing trust that fixed it up and sold it to the moms at a reduced cost.

Community Land Trust

A community land trust is a legal entity that provides affordable housing for low-income residents.  The residents own their homes so they can build wealth, but lease the land from the community land trust.  The trust can be for houses or condominiums.  (The Oakland Trust has a small park in their inventory) The land lease contains restrictions on future sale prices ensuring affordable housing for generations. The Bay Area Community Land Trust would be a good resource for the City to use to set up a land trust. A land trust would have access to funding sources such as grants that are not available in general.