Millbrae looking to nonprofit developer to manage affordable-housing initiative 

Officials are considering a partnership with Bridge Housing, an affordable housing nonprofit developer, to help manage a low-income housingsituation that may be looking brighter thanks to a spate of development around the Millbrae BART station.

Approximately 350 condominiums — some in construction and some in the permitting process — are under development around the BART/Caltrain hub.

A percentage of each of these developments, as required by city law, must be set aside for below-market-rate units. Developers, however, can skirt this requirement by paying the city in the form of a housing-in-lieu fee, which funnels into the city’s redevelopment budget.

As a result of these fees and high property taxes on these new developments, the redevelopment budget will have more opportunities to purchase properties for low-income housing.

Community Development Director Ralph Petty said it makes sense to entrust a reputable nonprofit with the acquisition and management of these and existing units.

Petty hopes the city-nonprofit partnership, which would be Millbrae’s first for low-income housing, will kick-start what he described as a "miserable" affordable housing situation in Millbrae and all over the Peninsula.

The City Council is scheduled to hear a presentation from Bridge at its Tuesday meeting.

A city report found that more than $1.2 million is expected next fiscal year for the city’s low-income housing fund. Petty said 80 percent of that would be devoted to redevelopment opportunities in the BART/Caltrain hub.

Bridge would help the city search for existing buildings to rehabilitate as well as help in the management and purchase of these properties.

"They can bring all their expertise and connections to the table and we think that’s very valuable," Petty said.

There has not been talk yet about targeting specific properties for purchase, but the city report noted that the Shaw’s Candy site on El Camino is up for grabs and may be of interest for affordable housing.

For now, Petty and Bridge President Carol Galante said both parties are focusing on establishing a relationship between the two organizations.

"Nothing is that formal at this point," Galante said. "But we do want to introduce ourselves to the council and help their desire to be motivated to find redevelopment opportunities in Millbrae."

Partnering with a nonprofit housing developer is a practice lauded by neighboring cities like San Mateo, which has used it in the past, and San Bruno, which is keeping it as a strong option as its own low- to moderate-income housing fund continues increasing over the next couple years.

Robert Muehlbauer, San Mateo’s longtime Neighborhood Improvement and Housing manager, has worked with Bridge, the Human Investment Project and Mid-Peninsula Housing Coalition and even private developers for affordable housing units in San Mateo.

"It’s a good partnership," Muehlbauer said, describing San Mateo’s role as that of a lender specifically for affordable housing. "In exchange for loaning the nonprofits money to purchase properties, they use our redevelopment money and promise they’ll provide X amount of affordable units."

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