Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 24, 2017

“Affordable” housing

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

Just so it doesn’t get buried and I have multiple posts to reference when opponents to any given project — including some City Council members — talk about workforce housing in lieu of whatever housing is under consideration, let’s talk about what this workforce housing definition means in a practical sense.

After all, as a commenter noted, we are living in an alternative fact based reality so…

Just to recap, presently Alameda has inclusionary housing requirements of all new development over a certain number.  That means that the developer has to provide a certain number of units to be deed restricted affordable housing.  Including for very low (50% of AMI), low (80% of AMI), and moderate (120% of AMI) income folks.

Area Median Income for folks that may not know is:

 The area median income (AMI) is the household income for the median — or middle — household in a region.

As a quick refresher, if you were to line up each household in the area from the poorest to the wealthiest, the household in the middle would be the median household.

Here are the numbers:


Because of how bad the housing market is, even folks that are considered “moderate” income, that is 120% of AMI, are eligible for deed restricted housing if it is available.  According to staff’s consultants because of how terrible the housing market is even families bringing in more than six figures (120% – 180% of AMI) are a specialized category in need of distinction beyond just being market rate housing.

Essentially what people are arguing for, when they say we need workforce housing over deed restricted or market rate housing, is that we need to build housing for families that make nearly two times AMI.  We definitely need to build housing for families at all income levels, but in any other reality housing for folks making 120% – 180% of AMI which is six figures for a family of four (as well as a family of three) should be market rate housing.   It is interesting to hear people who talk about the need for workforce housing say that we don’t need “luxury housing” as though 120-180% of AMI is poverty levels of income.

We’ll never solve the affordability problem if we concentrate on one housing type over the other, we just need to build more housing.


  1. We have cities across this region arguing about what kind of housing to build and how much -to the regions detriment. It is imperative that we build as much housing as possible in our urban areas at every price point, with the overall goal being dramatic increases to our housing inventory. The California Draft Housing Assessment says that people are coming to California whether we build or not. If we don’t build the housing crisis will get worse, which means more cars, longer commutes and more folks living in substandard housing. To those who say move: other cities across the nation are experiencing that same housing crisis. This is where jobs are and we need to build appropriate housing that meets the needs of our world class economic engine so that everyone can have safe and stable housing that costs under 30% of their monthly incomes. Arguments in favor of “character” favor folks with housing privilege. We need to prioritize a healthy housing market that’s accessible to all over old notions of suburbia.

    Comment by Angela — January 24, 2017 @ 7:45 am

  2. It’s an interesting conundrum the great thinkers of Alameda find themselves in. Too many people need to be housed in too few housing structures.

    Many cities (Detroit, St Louis, Philadelphia) in the old industrial areas of the U.S. find themselves with a vast over-supply of old and abandoned housing with no demand. The demolition of abandoned housing in many of these cities cannot keep up with the on-going abandonment.

    Alameda (and some other Bay Area cities), unlike these mid-west cities, have an abundance of un-abandoned houses on huge lots. Perhaps it’s time for Alameda’s historic protection of hundred year-plus old houses on huge lots is rethought. Two adjoining lots in Alameda currently housing two families could vertically house twelve or fourteen families if the current houses were demolished and replaced with vertical built structures. This is true throughout the city.

    The city could select the most likely lots where high density vertical housing could replace single family structures, confiscate and compensate the current structures and familys through eminent domain and build the much needed multiple housing structures. It’s time Alameda left the nineteenth century and embrace the future.

    Comment by jack — January 24, 2017 @ 10:05 am

    • Make the Gold Coast Vertical?

      Comment by Gaylon — January 24, 2017 @ 10:53 am

      • Yep…the Gold Coast in Australia

        Comment by jack — January 24, 2017 @ 1:40 pm

  3. gotta get rid of measure A first. I think Jack is volunteering his property to be the first to convert.

    Comment by JohnP.Trump is not my President. — January 24, 2017 @ 11:53 am

    • Trump is not my President…who is?

      Comment by jack — January 24, 2017 @ 1:28 pm

  4. These above moderate income “affordable by design(aka- smaller)” units will be occupied by people in the moderate and low income categories that will just continue to be “rent burdened.”
    Just freaking build. It is good that we include smaller, denser units. This is good for affordability as well as from an environmental, transit, traffic and parking point of view.

    Comment by BMac — January 24, 2017 @ 12:28 pm

    • And the TDM plan would provide each tenant with a Flying Car, with a garage entry on the 22nd floor. “Bout time we got those Flying Cars goin’

      Comment by vigi — January 24, 2017 @ 4:21 pm

      • This is a problem for our new POTUS. He’s into innovative, outside the box real estate thinking. If anyone could re-negotiate the $50K/unit surcharge with the Navy, “the Art of the Deal” author probably can.

        Comment by vigi — January 24, 2017 @ 4:24 pm

        • Tony Schwartz? Might be difficult considering he’s not part of the Department of Defense.

          Comment by Lauren Do — January 24, 2017 @ 4:30 pm

        • He could decree that everyone should inherit a house. Housing affordability problem solved! Why didn’t Obama think of that? All talk, no action. Sad!

          Comment by BC — January 24, 2017 @ 4:41 pm

  5. Perhaps it would be more logical to build vertically on lots that are vacant (Alameda Point/NAS) before we start tearing down perfectly good houses and are already serving the purpose of providing shelter to the families that live in them.

    (Yes, I know jack’s suggestion was not serious)

    Comment by JohnB — January 24, 2017 @ 2:54 pm

    • Nah, they’d ruin the view of SF for Rockwallers,

      Comment by jack — January 24, 2017 @ 3:39 pm

      • move the Rock Wall dome to the top of a new tall building. problem solved!

        Comment by vigi — January 24, 2017 @ 4:19 pm

  6. Jack & vigi the two trumpets are really into alternate facts & realities.

    Comment by JohnP.Trump is not my President. — January 24, 2017 @ 4:31 pm

    • Who is your president John P. Trump is not yards yada yada

      Comment by jack — January 24, 2017 @ 5:31 pm

  7. I 100% agree with Angela. I would only re-emphasize that people are moving to our region because of the many, many well paying jobs. They are coming regardless of whether our local and regional governments strategically plan for their arrival, or not. Having put our heads in the sand for decades and not keeping up with this growth has created a real estate crisis — a massive shortage of housing supply compared to demand. Local elected officials do not like to plan for more people because of the implied negative impacts. But not planning for the growth results in haphazard ripple effects such as poorly planned transportation infrastructure, greater regional congestion and air pollution from longer commutes, and the permanent loss of regional open space, in addition to the many negative impacts of exorbitantly expensive housing for everyone.

    Economies are complicated, and there are many unknown variables, but one possible outcome is that the major employers that created many of these well paying jobs re-locate because they are not able to attract qualified employees who are willing to live here with these shortfalls. Take that down its path….and then what??

    I believe it is much wiser to strategically plan for growth, as projected, than to hope that all of the people just go away.

    Comment by Dya — January 24, 2017 @ 6:03 pm

  8. Historical trends of income distribution:

    Comment by Mike McMahon — January 25, 2017 @ 8:09 am

  9. The LAO has published a report on cities and housing:

    Comment by Mike McMahon — March 8, 2017 @ 10:14 am

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