Council looking at ways to help following January mass shooting

Posted on: February 28, 2023

Source: The Daily Journal; Author: Curtis Driscoll

Half Moon Bay is starting two new initiatives to help increase affordable housing by forming a new ad hoc housing committee and loaning $1 million to fund a new affordable housing development at 555 and 535 Kelly Ave.

Credit: City of Half Moon Bay

The City Council approved forming a new ad hoc housing committee to address affordable housing needs for displaced farmworkers and funding the loan agreement at a Feb. 21 council meeting.

The temporary ad hoc committee will consist of Mayor Deborah Penrose and Vice Mayor Joaquin Jimenez as members and will be reassessed after six months. It is responsible for narrowing down future housing sites, looking for funding, and advocating for political changes to allow more affordable housing.

The ad hoc committee is responding to the Jan. 23 mass shooting at two local farms that killed seven farmworkers and injured one more. Around 19 households relocated from their residences on the farms while the Sheriff’s Office blocked the crime scene off. Families were housed in hotel rooms in Half Moon Bay. Most recently, Airbnb, the Bay Area vacation rental company, has helped house individuals in properties in the area. A city staff report said that the city and county are working with the families to move them to long-term interim housing for around one year. However, that arrangement will likely cost about $1.5 million. The city is identifying sites that can provide units faster than a typical project. The shooting led to the city calling for more help to address the lack of housing after details emerged about the poor living conditions of those on the farm and many essential farmworkers on the coast.

City Manager Matthew Chidester said many families live in crowded, substandard conditions, and the city has a sizable homeless population. Chidester said there is an opportunity to work with leaders at the state and federal level to pursue affordable housing at a pace it hasn’t in the past.

“We have a lot of farmworkers living in conditions that are not ideal, and that also goes for many of our service workers and anybody who is struggling to afford housing here on the coast,” Chidester said.

Loan Agreement

The $1 million interest-free loan with developer Mercy Housing to build a affordable housing at 535 and 555 Kelly Ave. is the latest effort to ensure more units are built on the coast. The property at 555 Kelly Ave. is a 6,200-square-foot property south of the Ted Adcock Community Center and abuts the city’s parking lot on the south side. The city purchased the land in 2017 for around $1 million. The city-owned parking lot at 535 Kelly Ave. sits next to it.

“I am very excited about the project,” Penrose said at a Feb. 21 meeting.

Mercy Housing, an affordable housing developer, is working with local nonprofit Ayudando Latinos A Soñar on the development of 40 units of affordable farmworker housing and a Farmworker Resource Center at the site. The building would be four stories, with parking and the resource center on the ground floor and community space and management offices on the second, according to a staff report. Mercy Housing would manage the property. The site calls for a mixture of studio and one-bedroom units, serving households of one to three people.

The city is partnering to help because of the financial constraints that come with building affordable housing. Most developers cannot charge as much as a market rate development, making it harder to incentivize building much-needed affordable housing. A staff report said that the loan would have an initial term of two years with no penalty, unless there is a default.

Several councilmembers asked city staff to protect the funding in case anything went wrong with the project and the development did not happen. Councilmember Debbie Ruddock noted the city had a small amount of money for affordable housing, arguing the county and state should be the primary financial drivers of the project. She wanted an agreement that protected the city’s financial interests and ensured valuable land was not wasted.

“We want it to happen, but we want to make sure the city’s protected,” Ruddock said.

Mercy Housing is also seeking additional funding from tax credits, state housing funds, and the county for the construction, estimated at $33.7 million. The county is prepared to offer $1.5 million in county pre-development funding for the project, according to the staff report. The council expressed appreciation for the county helping to share the financial load and not requiring the city to give more. It voted 4-0 to approve the predevelopment loan agreement at its Feb. 21 meeting, with Jimenez recusing himself because he works for ALAS.

Read the full article here.

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