Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 20, 2016

It’s complicated

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

In the conversation about the lack of housing supply, and more importantly the lack of affordable housing supply, in the Bay Area and Alameda the common refrain from folks who would rather not see any development at all, but want to appear to be empathetic to the plight of the overextended and underhoused is that all housing development should cease unless it is of the affordable variety.

Of course that sounds great on paper, but when you drill down to specifics like “how are you defining affordable?” Or “who is going to pay for the affordable housing?” The soundbites are a bit less forthcoming.

But one of the solutions I’ve read and heard recently is that for profit developers should pay for building affordable housing and they can, if they are willing to take smaller profits.  Now that may be true in regions that have way less regulations and red tape as well as cheaper land prices and construction costs than Alameda and the Bay Area in general, but mostly that supposition is based on nothing more than someone’s gut instinct.

Very recently there was a study done by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University which performed a much needed case study on for profit housing development of affordable housing.  Affordable housing is defined as for families earning less than 60% AMI.  Th big takeaway was it’s really complicated to build affordable housing for both non profit and for profit developers, but even for for profit developers there is a need for significant public and private resources.

In fact in the case study of a large for profit affordable housing developer this was the conclusion:

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 6.20.24 AM

More on the study later.


  1. It is in my opinion that a lot of people don’t want an affordable house. They want the perfect new house with all the perks at an affordable price. They want a dishwasher, washing machine, air conditioning, 2 car garage and everything else and they believe someone else should pay in order for them to be able to get this. I grew up in a place where they didn’t have prop 13 and people started out in a starter home, which was small and sometimes old, needed work and as they could afford more they would sell their house and move up into a larger nicer home. That isn’t the case in California, especially with younger people they want what they want and they want it now. Many would not dream of taking welfare but building and selling affordable houses at a loss is housing welfare sort of speak. As a developer you can build some nice market rate housing and sell them at more then what you normally would in order to build houses which are affordable at a loss. It isn’t all black and white, there is a lot of grey in this area.

    I have been in El Salvador for a lot of the summer and you see some of the happiest people living in shacks. The biggest difference is most people in the US feel entitled, here they have to work for everything they get and they are much happier.

    Comment by joelsf — July 20, 2016 @ 6:50 am

  2. tin shacks for affordable housing Why didn’t we think of that earlier.? Sowetoland

    Comment by Mark Irons — July 20, 2016 @ 8:00 am

  3. Mark, you don’t even have to go out of the country to see tin shacks and unimaginable housing people live in just go to Mississippi or Louisiana and people live in shacks but they will have a brand new Cadillac in front of it. When I lived in Mississippi it was like a foreign country.

    Comment by joelsf — July 20, 2016 @ 8:52 am

    • I am not trying to make a point here, but it is true that if you drive out of Memphis into the Mississippi Delta you will still see such conditions. Some of the shacks are now trailers, but a lot of them are in no better condition.

      Comment by MP — July 20, 2016 @ 9:40 am

  4. I’m resetting my I.D. to “MI”. Ignore this.

    Comment by MI — July 20, 2016 @ 10:45 am

  5. Are you people serious? Is Laura serious? ARC got there asses handed to them with logic and facts from the council who had enough of their anicdotal lies and we are discussing the affordable housing business model? Ashcraft was the first to pounce on the ARC initiative , followed my Oddie ( ya, I know ) who actually cussed he was so frustrated and we are making space for a mythical creature …” The Landlords Initiative ” as the great hope to challenge all those ARC members who can’t feel the Bern anymore.

    COME ON!!!!!!!

    Comment by Master Blaster — July 20, 2016 @ 4:33 pm

  6. Alameda County Affordable Housing Measure on November Ballot.

    Comment by frank — July 20, 2016 @ 5:59 pm

  7. It’s complicated, it really is:

    What in the hell is this walled in Wonder Woman, who’s parents escaped the tyrannical future of a communist utopia, who has reaped the benefits of freedom, what in the hell gives her the floor to bitch and moan about every fucking thing that smacks of any iota of freedom, freedom of the self, freedom of the individual instead of the state, freedom to live the life any simple individual wants to live? I’ll tell you what, it was because her parents climbed out of that fishing boat onto a US Navy vessel in the South China Sea and made it to these shores.

    The idea that Harvard “joint centers” has found a conduit through the scrbblings of a person who evidently would have preferred that her parents had missed the boat and that what they left is better than what they got,

    The complication arises when one thinks of all those unlucky refugees who didn’t make it to a US Navy vessel and who now live as they always have in the belly of the beast. Why doesn’t Wonder Woman fight the fight for those instead of, I guess, fighting to get all these rich spoiled Amis to replicate Hanoi’s nervana?

    Comment by Jack — July 20, 2016 @ 7:23 pm

  8. Gosh, Jack, why don’t you say what you really think? (heh heh)…It has always been a mystery to me why LDo is living in California, when she so embraces East Coast culture.

    Californians don’t need Harvard to tell us how to think.

    As someone at the GOP convention last night said: “that’s why we have States in the first place”. Each state is different, with different problems and different solutions. That is the essence of diversity. Generalizations across 3000 miles are dubious at best.

    Comment by vigi — July 21, 2016 @ 9:31 am

    • Yeah, cos economics, like physics and medicine, is completely different in different. Nativism is a wonder to behold.

      Comment by BC — July 21, 2016 @ 1:00 pm

      • Economics and medicine unlike physics is completely different according to native culture. Nativism is what makes the world interesting.

        Comment by Jack — July 21, 2016 @ 5:58 pm

  9. Thanks Lauren for posting this study. A lot of questions are coming up in Alameda now that housing is actually being built and developers are sharing their profits in the way of community benefits and building both low income, through partnerships with non-profit developers, and moderate income by incorporating it into their project. The response has been to demand to know why market rate is necessary to build affordable and this study seems to go in the direction of answering those questions. Renewed Hope is planning a public forum in the fall to help explain how this works and promote the upcoming Alameda County housing bond which will raise money for low income housing and other housing programs.

    Comment by Laura Thomas — July 22, 2016 @ 9:48 am

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