Cities team up to meet housing requirements 

San Mateo County’s cities are joining forces to meet state-mandated requirements for affordable housing in a move that may allow some cities to swap funding or other resources in exchange for building fewer units.

A 2004 state law allows regional cities to team up to meet housing goals, but San Mateo County is the first in the Bay Area to try it, according to Ken Kirkey, principal planner with the Association of Bay Area Governments. So far, 17 of the county’s 20 cities have opted in. The remainder — Brisbane, Daly City and Redwood City, as well as the county Board of Supervisors — are expected to do so by the Aug. 31 deadline, according to Walter Martone, a staffer with the City/County Agency of Governments, which is facilitating creation of the regional group.

ABAG will hand down new housing requirements for very-low-income, low-income, moderate-income and above-moderate-income housing in mid-2007. Countywide, cities fared poorly in achieving the last set of targets established in 1999; only 52 percent of the required units were built countywide, the lowest percentage of any county in the Bay Area, according to a report from Mark Duino, county manager of special projects.

"Now we can look at the entire county to work out where the affordable housing really makes sense, rather than dictating to cities what they should do," Hillsborough Vice Mayor Kitty Mullolly said.

Few rules have been set for the new group, though C/CAG will work with city managers, planners and other officials to establish some ground rules.

In Belmont, where the City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to join, Councilmember Coralin Feierbach questioned whether some cities that did not want to build affordable housing might be able to donate their affordable-housing funding so that other cities with available land might create more units.

"The rules haven’t been worked out, and many cities are not interested in swapping funds," Martone said. "But it could be a barter system of some kind, if cities agree to it."

Although ABAG officials said they don’t know what the new housing requirements will be, it should amount to the sum of what each city would be asked to build, Kirkey said. In 1999, ABAG required 16,305 new units be built by 2006. Of those, 8,443 were built — something officials are anticipating will change.

"We’re hoping that, through this group, cities will have a greater level of commitment — rather than just having requirements shoved down their throats," C/CAG Director Rich Napier said.

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