An affordable housing project on Pope Street won Planning Commission approval on Thursday. The nonprofit Our Town St. Helena will build four new units at 963 Pope St., which already has a single-family home.
Our Town St. Helena NewsletterDecember 2021
2021 Was a Big Year for Our Town St. Helena
- Purchased the four-unit Christine Apartments and preserved the rents at affordable levels for 55 years
- Thanks to a significant private donation, purchased property on Pope Street adjacent to property we own, allowing us to expand our approved five-unit Workforce Village to ten units
- Received a second major donation from a local community member to jumpstart a capital campaign for the Pope Street project
- Put the finishing touches on eight new self-help homes at Brenkle Court
- Hired an Executive Director and expanded our Board of Directors
We will start 2022 with projects in every stage of development–from conceptual to move-in ready. Our community is losing population (6 percent in last ten years) because of the imbalance of housing costs to incomes. We all need to work together to keep our town diverse and vital.
Report Card Shows How Badly California Is Failing On Affordable Housing
Only 16% of the homes permitted last year were affordable to the 41% of California’s lower-income households, an analysis shows
Among job losses, pandemic lockdowns and quarantines, and the stress of working and schooling from home, the crises of 2020 spotlighted the importance of access to secure and affordable housing.
California’s not keeping up with state’s housing mandates
But across California, not nearly enough housing was built last year to keep up with the state’s mandates — and most of what was added wasn’t affordable to a majority of residents, according to an analysis of state housing permit data.
To meet state-mandated goals to provide housing to people at all income levels, cities and counties would have needed to permit roughly 145,000 new homes last year. About 17% should have been affordable to medium-income buyers and renters, while the rest should have been split about evenly between higher and lower affordability. Read more
Build Back Better: $170 Billion For Affordable Housing–Here’s Where It Would Go
House Democrats passed the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act on Friday, which includes a number of provisions for housing aid, including investments in public housing, rental assistance and down payment assistance. It now goes to the Senate, where it is likely to be revised again.
In total, the legislation allocates about $170 billion to provisions for affordable housing. It’s the largest investment in affordable housing in history, according to the Biden administration, and will build or preserve more than 1 million affordable homes.
Public housing: $65B
BBB allocates about $65 billion to preserve and rebuild public housing, including to “repair, replace, or construct properties.” The investment will also aim to reduce health hazards, increase energy efficiency and boost resilience to natural disasters.
Rental assistance: $25B
The act allocates about $25 billion for rental assistance. Most of the funding will go to federal housing vouchers, which can help lower-income tenants afford rent and reduce homelessness.
It includes about $24 billion for Housing Choice Vouchers, which would help an estimated 300,000 low-income households, including about 274,000 children, according to a new Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) report.
Our Town St. Helena Expanding its Pope Street Housing Project after Acquiring an Adjacent Parcel
The Star, Jesse Duarte, November 20, 2021
Our Town St. Helena is set to expand its Pope Street housing project after acquiring an adjacent parcel.
Our Town closed escrow in October on 951 Pope. The property is next door to 963 Pope, where Our Town was already planning a five-unit affordable housing project.
OTSH will double the size of its Pope St. Workforce Village
Combining the two lots will allow Our Town to double the “Workforce Village” project size from five to 10 units, pending city approval. The project will provide two-bedroom, one-bathroom, income-qualified rental units in duplexes and single-family dwellings.
According to Our Town, the purchase was made possible by a generous donation from Jim and Stephanie Gamble.
“It is essential that local families and organizations support the preservation of existing housing and the building of new homes for our workforce,” said Jim Gamble. “We are delighted to play a role in this project.”
Newsom Signs Legislation to Increase Affordable Housing Supply and Strengthen Accountability
Newsom signed 31 affordable-housing bills focused on cutting red tape and holding cities accountable for providing their fair share of housing. The suite of bills is designed to boost housing production across California, complementing the Governor’s $22 billion housing affordability and homelessness package and ongoing work by the state to spur more housing production, tackle barriers to construction and hold local governments accountable. Taken together, the actions represent a comprehensive housing vision and the state’s commitment to create more affordable housing, faster and cheaper.
“The acute affordability crisis we are experiencing in California was decades in the making, and now we’re taking the necessary steps to fix it,” said Governor Newsom, who signed the legislation at an affordable housing development in Oakland today. “This package of smart, bipartisan legislation boosts housing production in California – more streamlining, more local accountability, more affordability, more density. These bills, plus this year’s historic budget investments in affordable housing, will directly lead to more inclusive neighborhoods across the state. Creating denser housing near jobs, parks and schools is key to meeting our climate goals as well as our affordability goals.”
Newsom has prioritized the housing crisis
Since taking office, the Governor has prioritized tackling the housing crisis, signing major legislation to boost housing production, remove barriers to construction of accessory dwelling units and streamline state laws to maximize housing production.
This comprehensive housing vision brings a focus on four key areas: streamlining the building of new homes, breaking down barriers to build more affordable housing, addressing systemic bias by elevating fair housing principles and holding local governments accountable to do their job.
Investing $22 billion in housing, the largest in California history
The bill package, combined with four housing bills signed earlier this month, create a robust 31-bill housing package that touches on all four key areas – all complemented by budget investments Governor Newsom included as part of his California Comeback Plan.
Under Governor Newsom, California is pursuing its boldest housing and homelessness budget in state history, with an unprecedented investment of $22 billion to tackle these systemic issues. The funding will lead to the creation of over 84,000 new affordable homes for Californians, including over 44,000 new housing units and treatment beds for people exiting homelessness.
Newsom Signs Bills Aimed At Creating More Affordable Housing in California
Gov. Gavin Newsom moved Thursday to create more affordable housing in California, signing a list of bills that would allow more duplexes and small apartment buildings in certain neighborhoods.
Affordability crisis that is undermining growth and prosperity for California families
Newsom said the new laws would mitigate a ballooning affordability crisis that “is undermining the California Dream for families across the state” and that “threatens our long-term growth and prosperity.”
“Making a meaningful impact on this crisis will take bold investments, strong collaboration across sectors and political courage from our leaders and communities to do the right thing and build housing for all,” he wrote.
Here’s what Newsom signed:
Senate Bill 8: The bill extends an existing law’s 2025 deadline by another five years, therefore maintaining limitations on local governments’ ability to “downzone” neighborhoods without planning to increase density in other areas until 2030. SB 8 also regulates policies that would make it harder to build more affordable homes. Read more
AG Rob Bonta Applauds Appellate Court Ruling Upholding Key California Affordable Housing Law
Strengthening the statute and increasing access to affordable housing
The California Legislature amended the Housing Accountability Act (HAA) in order to strengthen the statute and increase access to affordable housing.
“California has a housing supply and affordability crisis of historic proportions,” the legislature said. This “despite the fact that, for decades, the Legislature has enacted numerous statutes intended to significantly increase the approval, development, and affordability of housing for all income levels.”
The design guideline is not ‘objective’ for purposes of the HAA
After the city of San Mateo denied an application to build a ten-unit apartment building, petitioners California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund, Victoria Fierce, and John Moon (collectively, CaRLA) sought a writ of administrative mandamus seeking to compel the project’s approval.
On Friday, the court ruled, “The design guideline the City invoked as part of its reason for rejecting this housing is not ‘objective’ for purposes of the HAA, and so cannot support the City’s decision to reject the project.” Read more
Housing as Infrastructure Initiative
Our goal: Include Housing in the Infrastructure bond issue
Include housing as part of any infrastructure bond issue initiated by the City of St Helena to create a sustainable local funding source for housing.
No need to repeat the reasons St. Helena is losing housing
This applies to individuals, families and seniors making less than $200,000 annual income. However, there is no denying that the imbalance of housing opportunities in our town is negatively affecting its economic vitality.
The biggest obstacle to preserving existing housing and building new housing is the dearth and high cost of land. Any long-term housing strategy will require a sustainable source of local funding to purchase and landbank buildable sites and to purchase and preserve existing housing at affordable prices.
Not generating enough fees from TOT and other sources
There is not enough projected development activity within our city limits for impact fees or transient occupancy tax (1%) to generate the needed funds and a real estate transfer tax does not appear to be viable unless it is county wide. Another solution for sustainable housing funds is a bond issue, however, a bond for housing alone would not likely pass with voters.
Many communities, and our federal government, are now including Housing as Infrastructure as they develop their strategic plans and long-term funding mechanisms. We ask the City of St Helena leaders to do the same as you consider both the purpose and ramifications of issuing a bond for infrastructure improvements.
Some suggested questions to begin the discussion:
- How will our current housing trends (declining population, missing middle class, insufficient local workers, dwindling school enrollment, etc.) affect infrastructure improvements over the next two decades?
- Does the City want to invest substantial resources in infrastructure for a town that is becoming a town occupied by tourists versus a thriving community with diverse households?
- What role does the provision of diverse housing opportunities play in rebuilding and sustaining our local economy and infrastructure?
- Is there consensus that local government could have a positive impact on building a diverse community through a sustainable fund to purchase property for preservation and future development?
- How could Housing as Infrastructure be presented to the community as part of a polling process for a bond issue?
Housing as part of community infrastructure
Incorporating housing as part of our future infrastructure plans could be our single most viable option to assuring a thriving local community rather than becoming just another town for tourists.
OTSH board and staff would be happy to continue a discussion on this important issue.
Sonoma County Accepting Applications for 3-Bedroom ‘Affordable’ Units
The Sonoma County Housing Authority is accepting applications for project-based waitlists for three-bedroom units at several apartment complexes.
The waitlists are for the Crossroads Apartments in Santa Rosa, the Fetters Apartments in Sonoma, Logan Place Apartments and Downtown River Apartments in Petaluma, Fife Creek Commons Apartments in Guerneville and Windsor Redwoods Apartments in Windsor.
Households of five-seven people
Those eligible for the three-bedroom affordable units are typically households of five to seven people, and renters pay up to 40% of their monthly income, according to Gilbert Martinez, a communications specialist with the Sonoma County Administrator’s Office. People living in the other units pay up to 30% of their income for rent, he said.
“Affordable housing developers use the PBV (Project-Based Voucher waitlists) income as leverage to finance the property,” Martinez said.
Applying for the apartment waitlist
Those interested in applying for any of the apartment waitlists must submit an application during this application period; a separate application is required for each list.
Applications can be completed online. Those who require a paper application are asked to contact the Housing Authority office at 707-565-7501. Applications are due on Sept. 17 by 5 p.m. if submitted in person at the Housing Authority’s office at 1440 Guerneville Road in Santa Rosa, or by 11:59 p.m. if submitted online. The Housing Authority will conduct a random lottery to determine applicants’ placement on each waitlist. Read more
San Jose Requests Approval for 661 New Units of Affordable Housing
Plans for hundreds of new, affordable housing units are now being pushed forward by the Santa Clara County Housing Authority. The agency is about to request approval from the City of San Jose to build 661 units on properties in the eastern portion of downtown, according to the Mercury News.
The project will span sites and will be phased
Once completed, the development will span two adjacent lots with the bigger of the two sites at North 14th Street between East Santa Clara Street and East St. John Street. The other site is at the corner of East St. John Street and North 15th Street. The first phase of the project will consist of 107 residences which will be called the ‘Hawthorn Senior Apartments.’ The next two phases will sit along East Santa Clara Street and are expected to contain 95 residences each.
Preston Prince, the Housing Authority’s new executive director told Mercury News, “It’s an amazing site. This is a great location. It’s in proximity to San Jose State University, City Hall, two future BART stations.” Read more
Affordable Housing Is Great, Unless It’s in Your Hood
This may be the single most important obstacle to building affordable housing. On paper, few can oppose the concept of affordable housing. It’s the right thing to do. It provides stability for families. It gives them a place to share important moments in their lives. With a stable foundation, parents are able to focus on other goals—getting training or going back to school, helping their kids with homework or after-school activities.
But the reality? Nobody wants affordable housing near their homes
The latest in Marin’s ongoing affordable housing saga is in Mill Valley. The city council has been weighing the possibility of adding an affordable housing complex on some of the property it owns, and according to a study, a spot near the police and fire stations across from the sports fields at Hauke Park may work best
Not for the neighbors, however
As soon as 1 Hamilton Drive became a possible location, “Save Hauke Park” petitions were distributed and signs started popping up everywhere, even though the potential complex may not impact the actual park very much, if at all. It may just remove some parking (there’s plenty of parking at the middle school and community center easily accessible across a small foot/bike bridge) and bathrooms (ditto). Kids will still be able to play baseball in Hauke Park and swing on the swings, adults will still be able to play pickup soccer games, and dog owners will still — maddeningly, illegally — allow their dogs to romp and poop on the sports fields even though there are signs clearly indicating that dogs are not allowed on the sports fields (there’s a dog park just for them right across that same small bridge). Read more
Affordable Housing Comes to Sunnyvale, Near CalTrain Station
Mid-Pen Housing, an affordable housing developer that traces its roots to Valley entrepreneurs, has bought a site near offices of tech companies. Mid-Pen Housing has purchased a 1.3-acre site in Sunnyvale near Lawrence Expressway and the Lawrence Caltrain Station on San Zeno Way. As with other recently proposed apartment complexes, building near transit stations is an earth-friendly strategy, getting cars off the roads and creating community.
Housing for families, seniors and domestic-abuse survivors
The developers are planning to build 220 units of housing on the parcel after the existing building is demolished and the parcel is cleared off. The larger of the two buildings would be marketed to families and survivors of domestic abuse. The units typically would be two- and three-bedroom apartments. The smaller building would be geared towards formerly homeless seniors and feature studios and one-bedroom units.
“Our project targets the growing unaffordability of the South Bay,” the Stanford Future Bay Initiative proposal states.
Amazon Commits $100M For Affordable Housing Near Seattle-Area Light Rail Stations
Amazon is committing $100 million to help create up to 1,200 affordable housing units across the Puget Sound region as part of its ongoing Housing Equity Fund. The latest effort is part of a partnership with Sound Transit and the units will be built on the agency’s surplus properties near light rail stations.
The Seattle-based tech giant first announced its $2 billion initiative in January, aiming to create affordable housing in three communities where its rapid growth risks deepening the economic divide — the Seattle area, Northern Virginia, and Nashville, Tenn.
Creating housing near transit stations is trending for very good reasons
Convenience, of course, but it gets cars off the road and helps save the environment. It also spawns retail development. Coffee shops, restaurants, bakeries, bike shops, etc. These and other retail shops will pop up in these newly vibrant neighborhoods.
Amazon’s effort synchs with what other tech companies are doing to address housing inequity
Microsoft started the trend with a $750 million affordable housing initiative focused on areas around its Redmond, Wash., headquarters. The company’s latest investment was $65 million toward new housing units as well as efforts to reduce rents in Bellevue and Kirkland, Wash. As of last November, Microsoft had committed about $450 million of the pledged $750 million, which the company estimates will create and preserve more than 8,000 affordable housing units. Read more
Affordable Housing, One Unit at a Time at Obama Center
In Chicago: A plan to protect housing options for low-income residents living near the planned Obama Presidential Center was approved Wednesday by the Chicago City Council.
The move follows years of back and forth between the city and activists who’ve feared development around the $500 million presidential center would displace residents in the largely Black lakefront neighborhood of Woodlawn.
The plan includes grants for home repairs for existing residents
The ordinance will require new developments near the planned center to include affordable housing. The plan earmarks $4.5 million for housing programs, including offering grants for existing residents to repair homes and a program aimed at keeping rents affordable.
“This legislation will not only be a key first step in keeping long-term residents in place in Woodlawn but will serve as a model for the rest of Chicago as we advocate for additional development needed to transform all our neighborhoods,” Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor, a former activist who campaigned on the issue, said in a statement. Read more
The Only Way To Resolve the Affordable Housing Crisis
It will take a mostly proven mix of tax credits, grant programs, public-private partnerships and other direct spending. The Biden administration has proposed investing more than $300 billion to produce or preserve some 2 million affordable housing units.
National house prices are up a stunning 13% in the past year alone
Higher home prices are putting homeownership out of reach for more families. Today, less than half of Hispanics own their home and only about two in five Blacks own theirs, a level not seen in decades. Yet there are fewer homes available for rent or sale in this country than at any time in about 30 years. Read more
Making It Happen in Vermont
Tax Credits Will Help Fund 105 New Affordable Apartments in 5 Towns
The Vermont Housing Finance Agency approved financing in the form of tax credits to help build 105 new, permanently affordable apartments around the state.
How this works
The funding is awarded as tax credits, which are allocated to the state by the federal government. Housing organizations apply and receive the awards through the housing finance agency, and then provide the credits to an investor in the construction project in exchange for equity to fund the building.
For the affordable units, the majority of these apartments will go to individuals and families making no more than 60% of area median income, said Julie Curtain, executive director of Downstreet. Read more
Pacaso to Leave Napa’s Bel Aire Neighborhood, Implement New Operations Policies
This is a story with a happy ending: The fractional homeownership startup Pacaso will sell the home it recently purchased in a north Napa neighborhood, citing “community feedback” from neighbors and elected officials.
Community feedback means that neighbors organized and staged protests against the Pacaso home in their neighborhood
“Our neighborhood is wrong for this,” Pattie Dullea, whose home sits across the street from 1627 Rainier, told the Register in early May. “We have to preserve our little neighborhoods in Napa – there’s teachers, policemen and electricians here. It is a wonderful, varied neighborhood… that should not be able to be in the market for fractional ownership.”
Pacaso purchased the three-bed, two bath home at 1627 Rainier Ave. in Napa’s Bel Aire neighborhood for $1.13 million in April of 2020. Shortly thereafter, the sale caught the attention of the property’s neighbors, who voiced their displeasure at not having been warned about the company’s purchase and concern over the company’s fractional home ownership model.
What is Pacaso?
A fully managed home co-ownership model that’s being rolled out across the country—a fractional home ownership model that includes Napa Valley. The reality? It’s a timeshare, which is illegal here in Napa Valley. Pacaso is now suing St. Helena over the definition of timeshare. Read more
This Is What It Takes!
Developers to Include Affordable Housing in Their Projects
“Communities are strongest when people who work in a community can live in the community.”
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed House Bill 1117, a measure allowing local governments to impose affordable housing requirements on new developments.
“We know that local governments have been begging us for the tools to be able to encourage more local affordable housing to be built. This bill is a tool to address the affordable housing crisis and to combat gentrification,” said state Sen. Julie Gonzales, a Denver Democrat and prime sponsor of the legislation, at the bill signing. A 20-year-old court precedent that has blocked Colorado cities and towns from forcing developers to build affordable housing in new rental projects was turned over as Gov. Jared Polis signed this bill into law. Read more
Our Town St. Helena Newsletter, May 2021
An Insider’s View of the St. Helena Housing Market
OTSH welcomed Jordan Bentley to the Board in fall, 2020. She grew up in St. Helena and joins her mother and brother at Wine Country Consultants, a real estate firm focused on legacy vineyards and wineries. Jordan met her husband, Rob Watermeyer, at Massachusetts College of Art, where they were both pursuing a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Photography.
After graduating, they remained on the East Coast for a few years, involved in a variety of creative pursuits. They moved back to St. Helena in 2011, and Rob bought Frameworks, a custom picture framing and art gallery, in 2016.
Jordan’s and Rob’s challenge: No housing hitting the market at starter-house prices
Victor and his family love to go hiking together. L to R: Anahi; Leo, his father; Maria;
Rosa, his mother; Victor (green hat) and Daniel
Meet the OTSH Team's Victor Almanza
Victor Almanza joined OTSH in May 2020 to help with administrative and bookkeeping tasks. In his final year at Cal State East Bay, majoring in Business Management, Victor graduates in May 2021. His role at OTSH has allowed him to grow professionally—attending Board meetings, learning about routine office procedures and working as part of a team.
Victor’s parents immigrated to St. Helena from Mexico, seeking a better life for their children, and all of Victor’s siblings have taken advantage of opportunities to go to college. One of his sisters and brother attended St. Mary’s College. His younger sister will graduate from St. Helena High School in June and attend Sacramento State in the fall. What’s next for Victor? Read more
500-Ton Crane Delivers Family’s Home
One Palo Alto family had a brand-new living unit delivered by a 500-ton crane right into their backyard. The South Bay-based company, Abodu, installed a two bedroom, one bath detached accessory dwelling unit today to a family home.
The entire structure was built off site using a factory-built process while the foundation and utility connections were taken care of on-property.
The final step: Dropping the unit into the family’s backyard
“The unit was picked up by a crane, moved over the house, boomed into the backyard, lowered down to the foundation and it’s done in a jiffy,” Abodu CEO and co-founder John Geary said. “It sounds easy because we’ve made it easy. Read more
Solving the Housing Crisis with LifeX
Solving the housing crisis is going to take creativity. It will require living with density. One solution: LifeX. Live in beautiful, furnished co-living apartments in top locations. LifeX locations include Paris, Vienna, Copenhagen, Brussels and Berlin.
LifeX costs are all-inclusive
LifeX members come from all over the world—more than 50 nationalities, across a wide range of professions–tech, consulting, art, teaching, etc. Most members are between 25-35. Prices vary by city, but they are all-inclusive.
- Utilities, Wi-Fi, Disney Plus, and Netflix subscriptions
- Cleaning service for both the shared space and your private room (excluding Munich). Note: cleaning frequency may vary depending on the cities.
- Certain city or housing taxes
- Shared supplies (household items you generally share with your housemates like hand soap, toilet paper, laundry detergent, salt, pepper, cooking oil, etc.
Atlanta to Use City-Owned Land to Build Affordable Housing
Atlanta is launching a program to take land it owns and convert it into affordable housing. The initiative to utilize the public land presents an additional tool the city can use to make living in Atlanta more affordable amid rising rents and home prices.
The project will start with four sites
Three single-family properties and an apartment building have been identified for the first phase of this project. The Department of City Planning identified these sites after doing an inventory of publicly owned property that could be suitable for affordable housing. Atlanta owns 877 acres of land over 490 parcels that could be turned into housing. Read more
In Berkeley: $53M for Affordable Housing Projects at BART Stations
Berkeley is about to make the biggest affordable housing investment in city history. The city council voted to spend $53 million to develop hundreds of new affordable homes at the Ashby and North Berkeley BART stations.
The leadership the City needs
About $40 million dollars comes from Measure O bond funds approved by voters three years ago. Bart board vice president Rebecca Saltzman tweeted: “This is the leadership we need throughout the Bay Area and especially near transit to solve our housing crisis.” She added that BART has a goal of building 7,000 affordable homes on its property by 2040, but that the agency needs strong partnerships to get the job done. Read more
In New York’s SoHo: Is there room for affordable housing?
SoHo is now better known as a glitzy retail and dining district, one where it is easier to find a table at a restaurant than a reasonably priced apartment. And it is decidedly white.
A plan to bring new development to SoHo and NoHo, its sister neighborhood, aspires to change that. A proposed rezoning would allow 3,200 additional apartments over the next 10 years, including approximately 800 affordable units in an area that had fewer than 8,000 residents in the 2010 census. And by doing so in a place internationally synonymous with affluence and style, it could also become a symbol for racial and economic integration everywhere. Read more
In the NYTimes: Affordable Housing Shouldn’t Be an Oxymoron
Jamelle Bouie recognizes that Biden’s new $2 trillion-plus jobs plan recognizes that homes are part of the nation’s infrastructure.
Part of what makes the American Jobs Plan so far-reaching, besides the cost, is its expansive definition of “infrastructure.” In addition to billions for transportation and manufacturing, the bill includes $400 billion for in-home caregiving for older and disabled Americans and better pay and benefits for the caregivers themselves. Read more
It's Going to Take Creative solutions. In Tacoma, WA: A New Affordable-Housing Sales Tax
The Tacoma City Council voted unanimously to approve a one tenth of 1% sales tax increase to fund affordable housing projects.
The action increases sales tax from 10.2%to 10.3%, adding a dime to every $100 purchase, not including groceries. The increase is estimated to net the city an annual revenue of $5 million.
In Santa Rosa, $699M Affordable Housing Pipeline Might Not Be Enough
Santa Rosa is nurturing a $699 million affordable housing pipeline that could lead to the development of more than 1,200 new homes, including about 950 in the next few years.
Only 4 of 18 projects in the pipeline are under construction
The list is still hundreds of millions of dollars short of full funding. Even building all of the projects would still leave Santa Rosa short of the city’s current and upcoming state-mandated housing goals.
Santa Rosa’s current goal — a figure known as the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA)— is 5,083 units from 2015 to 2023, including about 1,700 homes for residents with low and very low incomes. In the next cycle, from 2023 to 2031, the goal is set to drop to 4,685, including about 1,900 low- and very low-income homes.
The bottom line
A lot more housing than Santa Rosa has shown it can build in the face of those goals. Read more
Bills Could Help California Build More Affordable Housing
California housing is crowded, expensive and difficult to find, but if a package of bills proposed by prominent Senate Democrats becomes law, some cities could look very different a decade from now. Picture the following:
- Duplexes and small apartment buildings would spring up from single-family lots.
- Public housing projects, effectively stifled since the 1950s, would dot the landscape of the state’s larger cities.
- Housing developments would emerge in the carcasses of vacant strip malls and abandoned big-box stores.
What it will take to meet this challenge: More state control
Wresting more control of housing from cities and counties. Local officials don’t plan to go along quietly. This battle of wills stretches back years, but some of the most aggressive legislation to give the state more control will be taken up in this year’s session. Read more
Our Town St. Helena Newsletter, March 2021
Over the next few months we will feature some of the industry leaders who are using creative approaches to deliver housing that is affordable.
This month we’re profiling the Napa Sonoma ADU Center. Find out if an ADU is right for you
The ADU Center is a comprehensive resource for any homeowner who’s entertaining thoughts of building an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). An ADU can be attached to or detached from the primary residence. Either way, it provides benefits to the homeowner and the community if used for affordable housing. If you want to be part of the housing solution, I encourage you to strongly consider whether an ADU is right for you.
A Focus on Our Brenkle Court Project Manager Larry Vermeulen
We also want to recognize Larry Vermeulen our Brenkle Court project manager who has been responsible for keeping Brenkle Court, our USDA Rural Development Mutual Self-Help project, on track and on budget, despite setbacks from the pandemic and 2020 wildfires. His job includes ordering materials, scheduling inspections and subcontractors, and so much more. Most importantly, he’s turned a group of novices without any construction experience into a skilled, functioning team.
Affordable Housing in Park City? You Bet!
Affordable housing—in Park City, UT? You bet. This is a story shared by every highly desirable destination in the country. Housing is so expensive that no one can afford to live there. Sound familiar?
“I know we are going to get backlash from this, I know we are going to get part of the community who doesn’t like this. The fact is that’s not going to change,” said Adam Breen with Breen Homes. “The influx of traffic, the people who want to come here to visit, the people who want to live in Park City, that’s not going to change. So, whether I develop it or someone else comes in and does something different, they are still going to fight these same problems of traffic, utilities, pushing out the wildlife, people coming in.” Read more
Creative Solutions to the Housing Crisis: Apartment Complex from Shipping Containers
It’s going to take a lot of creative solutions to solve the housing crisis. In Dallas it’s an apartment complex made of shipping containers. Merriman Anderson/Architects has designed some of Dallas’ largest historic building restorations, and the Dallas architect has done new buildings in the suburbs. For this project, they had to get creative.
The nine one-bedroom affordable housing units are made out of repurposed 300-square-foot shipping containers. Compact rental units have a living area located in front of a kitchen, a bathroom and a single bedroom. These unique apartment units will be rented at about $906 a month, including utilities, and are restricted to residents earning 60% or less of the area median income. Read more
Creative Solutions in NY City: Converting Hotels to Affordable Apartments
Solving the housing crisis will take creative solutions. In Brooklyn, nonprofit Breaking Ground is turning old hotels into affordable apartments. COVID-19 has been hard on the hospitality industry, providing the nonprofit the opportunity to look at more hotels in distress in areas that they serve. Read more
Our Town St. Helena Newsletter: February 2021
OTSH is kicking off the year with three new Board members. We’re delighted to have fresh new ideas and perspectives.
- Jordan Bentley is a St. Helena native and a partner at Wine Country Consultants, a real estate firm focused on legacy vineyards and wineries, where she joins her mother and brother.
- Ryan Heywood graduated from SFSU with a degree in industrial design and works in his father’s construction business.
- Justin Sterling is the General Manager of the Wine Country Inn and Cottages in St. Helena. As an employer whose workforce faces housing challenges, Justin brings a unique perspective to the OTSH Board.
Newark, NJ: Rebuilding One Property at a Time
Newark, NJ: is facing the challenge of rebuilding while avoiding the gentrification that leaves current residents homeless. Now even the city’s far flung residential neighborhoods are in the midst of a slow recovery. The transformation is part of a deliberate strategy with an ambitious goal: Erasing Newark’s long legacy of blight without pushing out residents, 86% of whom are Black or Latino.
In the last five years, more than 3,500 units of affordable housing have also been built or are underway. One property at a time, one parcel at a time. Just 15 miles from the heart of Manhattan, Newark’s downtown commercial district has successfully lured housing developers, a Nike factory store, a Whole Foods Market and the corporate headquarters for Audible, Amazon’s audiobook and podcast service. Read more
Creative Solutions to the Housing Crisis: Tiny Homes in North Hollywood
Solving the housing crisis is going to take creativity. One solution in North Hollywood: Tiny homes. Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission is helping to end the homeless crisis in Los Angeles. They operate shelters across the city and a job center. On Feb. 1, the organization opened LA’s first-ever tiny homes community in North Hollywood.
Who can live here?
This is community-based. Residents have to be homeless, 18 years and older, and live within a three-mile radius. It’s a place that’s theirs, with four windows, fresh air, their own bed that’s warm at night. This location provides 40 homes and 75 beds. Read more
Modular: The Answer to the Bay Area’s Affordable Housing Crisis?
Paul Bains watched as two steel houses were delivered on the back of a big rig to a parking lot in East Palo Alto. These prefabricated homes have become an increasingly popular answer to the Bay Area’s affordable housing crisis.
Bains is a South Bay pastor and founder of We Hope
We Hope is a nonprofit that operates 100-bed shelters in San Francisco, a 74-bed shelter and Safe Lot RV parking program in East Palo Alto and mobile fleets that provide showers, bathrooms and laundry services in 17 cities, across four counties. Read more
In Santa Rosa: $38M in Loans for Affordable Housing
The Santa Rosa Housing Authority has approved the use of $38M in federal disaster relief funds to build hundreds of new affordable homes in the next few years. The Housing Authority voted to loan $38,353,107 to the developers of five projects in Santa Rosa that initially offer the promise of 377 units combined–most restricted to low-income residents. Read more
In Charlotte: A New Model for Affordable Housing?
In Charlotte, NOAHs–naturally occurring affordable housing–were endangered–easy pickings for an investor looking to turn a profit.
A group of local organizations and investors built a pool of money to buy property, creating their Housing Impact Fund to preserve affordable housing. If their plan works, this group could be crafting a new and profitable model for dramatically increasing the amount of affordable housing in Charlotte and beyond. Read more
Bakersfield Rezones Land for Affordable Housing
This is what it takes. It may sound like a small thing, but zoning plays a critical role in building affordable housing. In most communities there is a strong NIMBY factor—people don’t want affordable housing in their own neighborhoods. There’s a fear of density. Read more
No Slums In The Sunset: Affordable Housing Battle Intensifies in SF Neighborhood
This article discusses one of the many problems that affordable housing advocates face as they try to move construction projects through the planning stages. Neighborhood objections are often vocal and persistent, as with this San Francisco Sunset District’s “No Slums In The Sunset” campaign. Flyers were the initial salvo in a development war that will surely escalate. Read more
In Kansas City: Developers Will Need to Set Aside Units for Affordable Housing or Pay Fees
Tax incentives for apartment construction will now come with a condition in Kansas City. Developers will need to set aside 20% of the units for affordable housing. Half of these units must be affordable for those earning 70% of the area’s average income, the other half for those earning less than 30% of the average. Developers who don’t fulfill the requirement must pay 110% of the construction cost of those units into a housing trust fund. Read more
In High-Priced Palo Alto: Affordable Housing Project Breaks Ground
Wilton Court, a $46.3M, four-story affordable housing project in Palo-Alto will feature 59 units offering independent living for a mix of single- and two-person households earning between 30% and 60% of the area median income. Twenty-one of the units are reserved for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The property is within walking distance of a grocery store, retail, restaurants, parks and public transportation.
One of the many obstacles to any kind of construction in high-priced California is financing
For this project, there is a total of seven organizations involved in its financing. The City of Palo Alto, Santa Clara County, Wells Fargo Bank, Enterprise Community Partners California Community Reinvestment Corp., California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, California Department of Housing and Community Development, and California Municipal Finance Authority are providing financing for the $46.3 million project. Read more
Amazon Pledges $2B For Affordable Housing Crises in 3 Major Employment Hubs
The competition continues–this time it’s Amazon. They’ve pledged to spend more than $2B over the next five years to build tens of thousands of affordable housing units in three of their major hubs–Seattle, Arlington, Virginia and Nashville, Tennessee—all areas where Amazon has a rapidly growing presence. The company employs more than 75,000 people in the Puget Sound region alone thanks to its headquarters in the state.
Big tech/business is taking responsibility for affordable housing
Amazon’s pledge follows similar commitments from Apple, Facebook, and Google, all of which previously promised between $1 billion and $2.5 billion each to tackle similar issues plaguing the San Francisco Bay Area. Read more
Affordable Housing Project Planned for Sunset District Families
Mayor London Breed is making good on her promise to build affordable housing. This 100-unit project is specifically for families. Another affordable housing project is under way in the Sunset District, specifically for educators.
The Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development has committed $15 million from the 2019 voter-approved affordable housing bond, spokesperson Max Barnes said Monday. Read more
In SF’s Mission District: First New Affordable Housing Opens in More than a Decade
The Mission’s new apartments will be home to more than 90 seniors, including those who were formerly homeless.
“These 96 new affordable homes represent a new chapter for the residents who have moved in,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “Housing is more than a place to live—it’s stability, community, and as we have seen so clearly during this pandemic, it’s also essential to public health.”
The nine-story building includes studios and one-bedroom apartments. Among the features include rooftop terraces with shared garden plots, bicycle storage and a solar hot water system. 1296 Shotwell also incorporates a “state-of-the-art seismic design” that would allow for residents to stay in place following an earthquake. Read more
Our Town St. Helena Newsletter: December 2020
The Give!Guide Makes it Easy to Donate; OTSH Welcomes new ED Jennifer La Liberte
The Give!Guide Makes it Easy to Give
The Guide is all online this year at candogiveguide.com. Key in “Our Town St. Helena” in the search field in the upper right corner of your screen. What’s great about the Give!Guide–donations start at just $10. Even small donations add up to make a difference. Thank you for supporting affordable housing!
OTSH Welcomes New Executive Director Jennifer La Liberte
Jennifer La Liberte joined OTSH as our Executive Director in November. Her professional experience includes 30 years in local government, the last 20 with the City of Napa. As the City’s economic development manager, she liaised with developers, businesses and the City, facilitating infrastructure projects and business retention programs as well as attracting private investments to provide new jobs and local tax revenue. Read more
Oakland Factory 3D Makes Small Units: Faster, Cheaper Housing
Affordable housing advocates recognize that many parts of California are no longer accessible for families. The average cost per unit is about $500,000 to $600,000. This is due to the high price of land and the cost of labor. A whopping 25% of the cost of building affordable housing goes to government fees, permits and consulting companies.A single affordable housing project requires financing from an average of six different sources. Zoning issues or objections by other property owners can consume many years before ground is broken.
Innovative companies are coming up with new ways to create affordable housing
Mayor Libby Schaaf toured an Oakland factory that uses 3-D printing to create small in-law units in a bid to bring down the cost of housing. Schaaf walked through Mighty Buildings’ factory and into a furnished, modular unit with large windows and a small kitchen and watched as a 3-D printer produced wall panels. Workers stood nearby as Schaaf looked through yellow goggles at the UV lights that harden the material for the panels.
Mighty Buildings’ 3-D printing method creates walls, ceilings and overhangs for the tiny units that are often built in backyards. The one- or two-bedroom units range from $115,000 to $169,000–40% cheaper than site-built units of similar quality. Read more
Star Editorial: The Mighty Our Town St. Helena
A scrappy nonprofit is gaining powerful allies and racking up victories as it faces down St. Helena’s biggest challenge: a lack of adequate affordable and workforce housing.
Since forming in 2009 in response to an attempted condo conversion, Our Town St. Helena has developed a reputation for getting things done by working with nearby residents on small projects that demonstrate how affordable housing enhances neighborhoods.
The most visible one was Brenkle Court, the self-help project under construction on McCorkle Avenue, where eight local families with household incomes of $40,000-$60,000 are building their future homes. Read more
Mountain View Commits $15M for Affordable Housing
Mountain View commits $15M for affordable housing. It’s joining its big tech neighbors Google and Facebook who have recently made multimillion-dollar donations to creating workforce housing.
Mountain View city officials are moving briskly to approve an all-affordable housing project — including units for the homeless — located next door to some of the Bay Area’s biggest tech powerhouses.
It’s the kind of project that might spark protests in other neighborhoods, with residents raising concerns about traffic and the prospect of the chronically homeless living nearby. But things are different when your neighbors are Microsoft offices and Google buildings. Read more
Facebook Joins Apple and Google, Pledges $150M for Affordable Housing in the Bay Area
The tech housing sweepstakes continue!
Facebook will spend $150M to build 2,000 units of extremely low-income housing. This is part of their October 2019 pledge to spend $1B on affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Facebook says this new Community Housing Fund would be the largest of its kind in California.
Tech sector steps up to provide housing for workers
Google was first to pledge $1 billion in June of 2019; Apple upped the ante by pledging $2.5B. All three tech titans employ tens of thousands of employees, and tens of thousands more through subcontractors. Affordable housing is scarce, and many essential workers cannot find housing.
In Idaho: Nonprofit Helps Add More Affordable Housing
Nonprofit home developer NeighborWorks Boise will build a pocket neighborhood with 39 homes. The second development of its kind by the organization in Boise, it will use grant funds, secondary loans and other assistance to sell a large portion of the homes to those for whom homeownership would be out of reach. A big part of NeighborWorks Boise’s mission is helping provide housing solutions to underserved communities.
NeighborWorks is working to boost families making 80% of the area median income or below into homeownership to build equity and provide stability.
What We Can Learn from An Affordable Housing Project in Aspen
Su Lum was a favorite columnist and part of the leadership team at The Aspen Times for 40 years. Her home, a historic miner’s cabin, is proposed for a project that will provide five units of badly needed affordable housing in Aspen.
This is the kind of project that we all should be looking out for
Instead of turning older homes into multimillion dollar estates, they can become small workforce villages, with three-five units of housing. As we address our housing needs, we all need to be looking for this and other kinds of infill opportunities. Read more
St. Helena Planning Commission Approves Affordable Housing Project @ 963 Pope St.
All five two-bedroom rental units will be set aside for local workers: one for a very low-income household, three for low income, and one for moderate income. “The town needs more of this, and we need to support it,” said Commissioner Daniel Hale. Read more
Reno Donates City-Owned Property to Land Trust for Affordable Housing
This Is Reno | Carla O’Day | October 15, 2020
Reno’s donation of land for affordable housing is a big step in the right direction. The city expects to build ten single-family homes. What’s interesting about this project: The trend in affordable housing is for density. Apartment blocks that are close to shopping and transportation hubs so that people can walk to work. An environmetal friendly approach.
The Reno City Council on Wednesday agreed to convey city-owned property in the North Valleys to a non-profit organization, which plans to build single-family homes for those earning less than 80% of the area’s median income.
The Community Housing Land Trust LLC is expected to construct 10 homes on 2.5 acres near the junction of West Golden Valley Road and North Virginia Street near Yorkshire Drive by the end of 2021. People would own the homes but the land would stay with the trust.
OTSH Newsletter, July 2020
As we kick off a new season, we want to pause and thank our community. All of these generous, hardworking people have helped keep Brenkle Court, our Self-Help Home Ownership project, on track. Despite COVID, catastrophic weather and the long hours of harvest seasons, this just keeps moving forward. If all goes well, our eight families will move into their homes in May 2021.
Self-Help Workers in St. Helena Build Their Own Homes
Volunteer with OTSH: Contact Project Manager Larry Vermeulen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Eight St. Helena families build their American dream from the ground up
St. Helena Star • Jesse Duarte • Updated
Eight St. Helena families spent last weekend the same way they’ve spent every weekend for more than a year: Building their future homes stud by stud, wall by wall, and side by side.
As temperatures crept toward the triple digits at the Brenkle Court construction site on McCorkle Avenue, it was clear they don’t call it “sweat equity” for nothing. Read more
OTSH Newsletter, July 2020
Brenkle Court: A Year in Review
A look back over the last year. We began working at the Brenkle Court job site in mid-July, 2019. There were exhausting days digging trenches in record-breaking heat. We learned to use tools and to frame. Our most immediate goal: Finish the roofing before the fall rainy season so we can continue working through the winter. Despite COVID, we’re still on schedule!
Our Town St. Helena's Sklar to head up Napa Valley Community Housing
The Star, July 15, 2020
St. Helena’s Erica Roetman Sklar has accepted the position of President/CEO of Napa Valley Community Housing (NVCH).
Over the course of nearly 10 years, Roetman Sklar has played a major role in developing projects for Our Town St. Helena (OTSH.) She has provided expertise on land analysis and acquisition, project conceptual development and funding, as well as construction project management. Read more
Press Release: OTSH/7.10.20
Erica Roetman Sklar Joins NVCH as President/CEO
Our Town St. Helena (OTSH), a local housing advocacy nonprofit, congratulates Erica Roetman Sklar on her acceptance of the position of President/CEO of Napa Valley Community Housing (NVCH). Over the course of nearly ten years, Erica has played a major role in developing OTSH’s projects. She has provided expertise on land analysis and acquisition, project conceptual development and funding, as well as construction project management. “While we are sorry to see her go, we are pleased that Erica will be at NVCH—an organization that shares our goal of providing housing opportunities to local communities in Napa County,” said OTSH President Mary Stephenson.
OTSH currently has a five-unit affordable housing project at 963 Pope Street being considered by the City of St. Helena Planning Department with the anticipation of receiving entitlement in late summer 2020. OTSH has entered into a working agreement with NVCH to have their organization manage this project from entitlement through construction. This agreement will allow Erica and the experienced staff at NVCH make sure the Pope Street Workforce Village is completed on schedule and on budget.
OTSH wishes to thank Erica for her incredible efforts over the last decade, and we look forward to strengthening our relationship with NVCH to provide affordable housing in Napa Valley.
OTSH Newsletter, May 2020
OTSH Welcomes Jeff Feeney to BOD
OTSH is delighted to welcome Jeff Feeney to our Board of Directors. Jeff has been living and working in the Napa Valley since graduating from Chico State in 1990. He has built a successful career as a commercial real estate broker, where he’s learned about customer service and the power of relationships. Jeff is well known in the community and is not afraid to speak out about the ongoing challenges we face–balancing quality of life while providing opportunities for growth.
OTSH continued to work during the sheltering in place order
Wearing masks and hardhats, the Brenkle Court crew continued framing the second floor. We staggered shifts at times so that we could maintain social distancing.
OTSH Newsletter, March 2020
The Kiwanis Club Turns Out for a Saturday Work Party at 963 Pope St.
OTSH Board Member Marisol Vargas reached out to St. Helena’s Kiwanis Club about helping us clean up the yard at 963 Pope St., where OTSH plans to create a five-unit workforce village. We pruned rose bushes and trimmed shrubs, raked leaves and cleaned gutters. We will be rethinking the landscaping on this property to streamline maintenance and reduce water consumption.
A big thanks to all of the Kiwanis Club members, including John Heflebower, Jan Darter and Bob Beckstrom!
Educating Our Community: What is Affordable Housing?
OTSH hosted a community meeting in February on affordable housing–how it’s developed and financed, its current status and its outlook for the future. Lack of affordable housing affects us all. OTSH President Mary Stephenson was the evening’s presenter. She debunked some common myths, presented data and talked about how we can preserve and build affordable housing in St. Helena to retain the character of our community.
OTSH Newsletter, January 2020
We want to thank those across our community who helped make 2019 a successful year. It includes a long list of donors who understand that affordable housing is key to maintaining the structure and character of St. Helena.
- Silicon Valley Bank was a major donor, and their Wine Division took an afternoon off to work on the job site
- The Episcopal Church lets us use their copying machine to reproduce reams of loan documents
- Kendra Kelperis’ art students at RLS Middle School made the murals for the McCorkle St. fences
- Jeff Weineman at UpValley Electric donated the labor portion of the underslab electrical
- The Methodist Church brings lunch to our Brenkle Court crew once/month
- Father Brenkle treats our families to lunches at Villa Corona
- Central Valley gives us discounts on materials
- Our end-of-year mailing brought a huge response that will help defray operating expenses
OTSH Newsletter: November 2020
SVB Gets Involved in Affordable Housing
Silicon Valley Bank’s Wine Division spent an afternoon at the Brenkle Court jobsite breaking up concrete and removing fence posts. This from Suzann Russell, the group’s Managing Director:
“This affordable housing will help our workforce live closer to where they work, support our winery and vineyard clients and their employees, take commuters off the road, and add to the overall quality of life in St. Helena. I hope we will see a lot more projects like this and more support from local businesses
L to R First Row: Lindsay Gallion, Diane Dodge Bianchini, William Stevens (Head of SVB’s Wine Division), Tyler Vasilik, Sara Chrisman Bjerkan. L to R Second Row: Suzann Russell, Steve Bierer, Jonathan Williams, Dino Pillinini
OTSH Newsletter, October 2019
Another Step Forward for Affordable Housing in St Helena!
Our Town St Helena (OTSH) closed escrow on this 1/3-acre property on 963 Pope Street in September, utilizing financing from the City of St. Helena and Rural Community Assistance Corporation. By employing a Charitable Sale strategy, which includes significant reductions in capital gains and income tax, the seller was able to obtain a higher net value than a market-rate sell, and OTSH was able to purchase the property at a deep discount.
We’re looking for other in-fill opportunities
According to Mary Stephenson, President, BOD, “This is the kind of in-fill project that can fit nicely into a neighborhood and still provide much needed housing for a diverse group of local residents. OTSH hopes to work with other homeowners to determine if a Charitable Sale could have tax advantages for the seller and provide our town with additional housing opportunities.”
In addition to this lovely 2-bedroom home, the property has room to build four more units behind the house. We’ll be creating a “workforce village”
OTSH Newsletter, July 2019
Our Town St. Helena (OTSH) is a local nonprofit that began working together in 2008 with the goal of preserving existing housing and identifying new housing opportunities for the people vital to the economic health and wellbeing of St. Helena.
Emergence of the Brenkle Court Townhomes
The USDA Rural Development Agency provided low-interest mortgages and the City of St. Helena donated property at 684 McCorkle Ave. Eight low-income families qualified for home ownership under the Mutual Self-Help Program, which means they’re responsible for 65% of the work on their homes.
An architectural rendering of Brenkle Court
A do-it-yourself affordable housing project begins in St. Helena
Napa Register/The Star, David Stoneberg, July 22, 2019
ST. HELENA — Eight Upvalley families started a journey of home construction this month that will end in 18-20 months when all of the eight townhomes on Brenkle Court are finished.
On a recent Saturday, the families cleared weeds, cut down shrubs and got the land ready for a concrete subcontractor to form and pour the two slabs needed for the single-family common-wall townhomes. Each of the homes will be two-story with three bedrooms and 1 1/2 baths.
The artwork on the chainlink fence is by Kendra Kelperis and her art students at RLS Middle School
Our Town St. Helena nears construction start on affordable housing project
Napa Valley Register, David Stoneberg, Jul 15, 2019
Eight Upvalley families started a journey of home construction Saturday that will end in 18-20 months when all of the townhomes on Brenkle Court in St. Helena are finished.
The Brenkle Court subdivision at 684 McCorkle Ave. is sponsored by Our Town St. Helena, a local nonprofit affordable housing advocacy group.
The families spent Saturday clearing weeds, cutting down shrubs and getting the land ready for a concrete subcontractor to form and pour the two slabs needed for the single-family common-wall townhomes. Each of the homes will be two-story with three bedrooms and 1 1/2 baths. On Monday, there was a large pile of brush behind the chain-link fence, on which hung several colorful and whimsical paintings. Read more
The project is named after Father John Brenkle, a longtime advocate for affordable housing in St. Helena.
Construction nears at St. Helena’s Brenkle Court
Napa Valley Register/Star News, Jessie Duarte, Jan 7, 2019
A team of local workers is getting ready to devote a year and a half of their lives to realizing their dream of owning a home in St. Helena – and they’re looking for some help.
The nonprofit Our Town St. Helena has established an online tool registry where people can donate money for tools or equipment to aid the future residents of Brenkle Court at 684 McCorkle Ave. Read more
Project Manager Larry Vermeulen works with the homeowners to teach them carpenter skills. None of the homeowners has a construction background, so they will learn as they go.