Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 23, 2017

Use the workforce housing

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

Tonight the Planning Board will make a recommendation about the Main Street Neighborhood Plan at Alameda Point.

Totally important, but even more important is that we finally have numbers behind the whole “workforce housing” thing that has become one of the most popular phrases at Alameda meetings when people AGAINST any project want to see at a site instead of the mix of housing that currently exists.

What made “workforce housing” so popular is the subjectiveness of the phrase.  It literally meant anything but the type of housing in the development under discussion.   A development is 100% affordable?  The speaker is against it because there should be “workforce housing”.  A development is 25% affordable 75% market rate?  The speaker is against it because there should be “workforce housing”.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

But now, now staff has worked with consultants to actually define what workforce housing actually is:


“Workforce Housing” is considered 120-180% of Area Median Income, which, technically is also known by another term: “market rate.”

From the staff report:

The housing crisis in the Bay Area has resulted in limited supply of housing for middle income families and housing costs that are in excess of the standard 30% of income underwriting requirements most mortgage companies adhere to. This workforce demographic sits in the middle of the income spectrum where affordable rental and ownership housing options are in limited supply, of questionable quality and/or offer limited space for a family.

To address the needs of households earning 120% AMI or less, the MSN Plan re-states the affordable housing requirements consistent with the Renewed Hope Settlement Agreement which requires that all new developments in Alameda Point provide 25% affordable deed restricted housing according to the following income categories:

o   At least 6% for very low income (50% AMI)
o   At least 10% for low income (80% AMI)
o   At least 9% for moderate income (120% AMI)

To provide opportunities for households with a household income above that required to qualify for deed restricted affordable housing, the MSN plan requires at least ten percent (10%) of the units be designed to be affordable to households with a household income between 120% and 180% of area wide median income, to the satisfaction of the Planning Board.  A deed restriction may not be required to meet the definition of workforce housing.  To achieve this requirement the development application shall include information about current and projected home sales prices or rental rates and the proposed unit design to justify and explain how at least 10% of the units have been designed to be affordable to the target household income levels.

In practical terms this is what a home price will look like for workforce housing families:

The workforce income range (Workforce I/Workforce II) is $112,000 to $168,000 for a family of four. Such a household would be able to afford a $500,000 to $750,000 home based on standard underwriting guidelines.

Using the same underwriting guidelines, a 4-person household with workforce incomes between $112,200 and $168,300 would be able to afford a 1,000 to 1,600 square foot home.

It’s unclear if the workforce housing units will be made affordable by design, or — like the low income units — be affordable through subsidization.  But what is nice to know is that if you hear opponents to any project proclaim the need for “workforce housing” they’re specifically asking for units which would, typically, be considered market rate by any other definition.



  1. Are you presenting a case for housing using alternate facts?

    Comment by Mike McMahon — January 23, 2017 @ 7:19 am

  2. Market rate housing helps pay for affordable housing. It pays for new infrastructure improvements, such as power lines, water and sewer systems, storm drainage systems, much needed transportation improvements, water transit improvements such as new ferries terminals, and water shuttles, parks and open space, restaurants and cafes, and other community benefits. It also pays city fees such as impact fees, TDM fees, school fees, and other fees that contribute to our quality of life.

    It puts hundreds of people to work, it re-vitalizes blighted areas, it opens up our waterfronts, attracts new companies, creative work spaces and art expression, which attracts more young families and young people to Alameda.

    What a future to look forward to!

    Comment by Karen Bey — January 23, 2017 @ 7:53 am

  3. It is nice to know that you need to make about 1.5x the typical household to count as part of the workforce. How degrading.

    PS- Lauren, it is meant to be affordable by design, not direct subsidy.

    Comment by BMac — January 23, 2017 @ 8:20 am

  4. SF State Senator Scott Wiener has put forward this new law Senate Bill 35 which would streamline housing approval processes in cities that are not meeting their RHNA numbers. I would like to review the RHNA numbers and see if they match that recently released state housing assessment draft’s numbers about how many houses we need to build annually to catch up to our current needs and provide room for those still flocking to our state. This housing crisis could get much worse if cities across California do not do their part.

    The state housing assessment is an interesting read because it refutes many myths about people without stable and secure housing. Most of them have jobs and in fact there are families who make six figures have trouble keeping up in this housing market because we have built far too few homes. This is where the jobs are. Plus the housing assessment details why increasing density in our existing cities decreases traffic, and protects our valuable farmlands in the inner parts of our state. It basically says that we need to build taller in our existing cities so that we do not create more sprawl and longer commutes.

    It is time to re-evaluate how we house people state wide and turn to a California of the future with tall, solar/wind powered, transit connected, energy efficient homes equipped with the latest in earthquake safe technology. Every city needs to do its part.

    Comment by Angela — January 23, 2017 @ 9:42 am

  5. Work force housing? When do I need to stop paying for everyone else’s housing. If there was enough housing we don’t have to pay for everyone else. I got a job and put myself through school and lived with roommates for years until I could pay for my home. You look at the west end of Alameda, it is where all the low income housing is already. We already have work force housing. We have all the apartments…they just need more housing not work force housing.

    Comment by Jake — January 23, 2017 @ 9:43 am

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