The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Sunnyvale Seeks Input on Housing Strategy

Like many places in the Bay Area and California, the City of Sunnyvale lacks local laws that govern rental rates for housing. Rents have skyrocketed in Silicon Valley in recent years and Sunnyvale is no exception with the median price for a one-bedroom at $2,570 according to Zumper’s San Francisco Bay Area Metro Report: June 2019.

Although Sunnyvale remains one of the priciest places to rent an apartment nationwide, the city’s rents have actually softened, dropping by 11.7 percent from June 2018 for a one-bedroom unit. In contrast, the Silicon Valley cities of Mountain View, Palo Alto, Milpitas and Santa Clara all experienced rental rate gains over the past year.

A report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Out of Reach 2019, looks at the gap between earnings and housing costs for the most populous counties around the country, and shows that 9 of the top 10 most expensive counties in the U. S. to rent are in California. Seven of the top 10 counties are in the Bay Area including Santa Clara County.

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The housing affordability crisis, illuminated by that report and many others, has plagued California and prompted the state Assembly to pass AB 1482, which limits annual rent increases to seven percent plus inflation, exempting landlords with 10 or fewer single family homes or new housing. The legislation is set to expire in 2023 but would need to pass through the Senate and be signed by Governor Newsom before being enshrined into law. AB 1482 was drafted with an accompanying bill, AB 1481, which would have mandated just cause evictions, but did not make it through the Assembly. However, AB 1482 was subsequently amended to include just cause eviction policies, so if ultimately passed would protect tenants on multiple fronts.

“It’s a good first step for renters in Silicon Valley where we’ve seen over 10 percent year-over-year increases,” said Kevin Zwick, CEO of Housing Trust Silicon Valley (HTSV). “There hasn’t been a drop off from new housing getting built. I think that the rent cap will provide some relief to current renters while not interfering with the functioning of the real estate market. Seven percent plus inflation is just under 10 percent; it could be more, so I hope that this is just a first step.”

Emily Hislop, a Senior Case Manager in the dispute resolutions division for Project Sentinel, works towards creating equity between tenants and landlords in Santa Clara County and beyond. She fields calls from both renters and landlords and sees a large power imbalance between renters and landlords in Silicon Valley. “With the housing crisis renters don’t have any options,” she said. In the past three years, Hislop has witnessed rent increases of more than 25 percent in the Valley.

“Most of Santa Clara County lacks any renter protections; San Jose and Mountain View have put in some protective laws,” she added. “Discussion about rent control is heating up locally in Hayward and other places.”

Although Sunnyvale currently lacks any form of rent control, the City has embarked on a Housing Strategy initiative in an attempt to address the issue of housing affordability within its borders.

“We haven’t done a deep analysis of AB 1482,” said Trudi Ryan, Sunnyvale’s Community Development Director. “We generally take the position that local control is better because we can develop policies and regulations that fit our community.”

When members of the community raise concerns about the cost of housing with City staff, they’re informed about a Housing Strategy that’s currently under development. The initiative kicked off in 2017, when City Council selected the topic to be studied in depth to “holistically examine the overall local housing context given growing concern about housing affordability and availability in Sunnyvale and our region.”

The Housing Strategy depends on a comprehensive study that’s currently underway. The results of the study are expected by the end of 2019 and City Council will review the draft sometime in 2020. According to Ryan, it’s possible that a broad rent control measure could be incorporated into the strategy, however so far all that’s been discussed has been a potential rent control ordinance that covers mobile home parks. Ryan said that Council had declined to pursue an independent study of rent control for apartments but that the topic could still be studied as part of the overall Housing Strategy.

Ryan explained that a large mobile home park in Sunnyvale had a longtime owner who had kept rents relatively low. When the Park was purchased by a new owner the rents subsequently increased beyond what many of the tenants considered affordable. The City then held a community meeting for mobile home tenants and another for mobile home park property owners to gather input about the issue. These meetings were the beginning of what will be many outreach events for the Housing Strategy as a whole, as the City is actively seeking community input on housing. Though a date hasn’t been set, the next one is planned for August and will likely cover the topic of “age-friendly” housing.

In May, City staff surveyed residents of six mobile home parks on topics related to the Housing Strategy. Of those who participated, 91 percent ranked rent control/stabilization as their preferred policy for addressing the affordability issue at mobile home parks.

“Sunnyvale has taken a leadership role in housing services since the 1980s,” said Ryan. “Doing something about housing isn’t new for Sunnyvale. We try to be ahead of the curve.”

In addition to protecting renters, Zwick said that HTSV promotes housing preservation and housing production as three essential components to alleviating the housing crisis. In terms of Sunnyvale’s housing production, there are currently 5,000 new housing units in the City’s development pipeline. In 2017 the City planned for a growth of 12,800 units within its Land Use and Transportation Element. Additional units are also being considered in the Downtown Specific Plan, The Lawrence Station Area Plan, El Camino Real Specific Plan and Moffett Park Specific Plan.

 

Update: This article has been updated to reflect an amendment made to AB 1482.

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8 Comments
  1. Terrence 1 month ago
    Reply

    Establish a law for exisiting apartments, for every ten market rate, you must have one below market, subsidized or affordable

    • Richard Mehlinger 1 month ago
      Reply

      It would probably qualify as an unconstitutional taking to do this for existing apartments. However, in August or September Sunnyvale Council is scheduled to vote on the so-called “Palmer Fix”, which would require 15% of apartments in new developments to be set aside as subsidized affordable housing.

    • Terrence Healy 1 month ago
      Reply

      Homelessness is a National Problem which requires more than just Individual Counties to solve it.
      The Federal Government did nothing during the Eight Years of the Depression and did nothing after that.
      What is needed is a Federal Housing program which involves Ownership, not Welfare.
      It will help balance the Market over time. Counties are helpless by themselves. There needs to be a State Wide Initiative to pool resources for 4 to 5 County Combined programs to pool Resources. Imagine a Military Base turned into a Homeless Resource with housing, medical, training and programs within to make it self supporting, like Farms and low cost Manufacturing and Assembly.
      If a Commune can thrive you would think an Organized Commune could prosper Providing Fresh Meat, Milk, Produce for All Schools ie: High schools, Middle Schools, Pre- Schools. Volunteer to stay and support, go through training to move back into society and if Mentally not able to live there and transition to a supported Environment. Corporate Sponsorship could help with costs as well as Federal and State funds. Drug addicts and alcoholics would go to three strikes to being permanently removed from Society for longer periods of time to get them to choose rehabilitation.

  2. Sandy Adams 1 month ago
    Reply

    Since Ab 1482 passed in the Assembly it was amended and now does include just cause. If passed by the Senate it will need to return to the Assembly to pass with the amendments.

    • Admin 1 month ago
      Reply

      Hi Sandy. Thank you for your comment. The article has been updated to reflect the amendment. Have a nice day.

  3. Ray Kahler 1 month ago
    Reply

    Being a long term resident of this valley. 38years. I really wonder if we as a community are encouraging the homeless to come here, by offering all these perks, EBT, section 8 housing, rent assistance. Yes if they’ve been fine, but I remember Las Vegas busing homeless here. Think if more cities are doing this. I’m happy that I’m not going here much longer, being old. But it seems like everytime I turn on the new, some new tax, fee increase. Some government agencies needs money. Just saying that my pockets are empty. I see fewer people working solid jobs, most are service jobs providing to rich.

  4. Alicia 1 month ago
    Reply

    I know this article is more specific to Sunnyvale but nonetheless my comments are for Santa Clara COUNTY, some ordinances need to be revisited and some current laws either need to be changed or new laws put in place. Also these ” Federal Government statistics & reports” that they base everything on are not realistic. What’s under “below poverty level”? Ummm I think it’s “don’t count” or “not considered” oh wait I know “N/A” not applicable. At least that’s how attitudes seem to be. I know a lot of people that where born and raised not just in California but right here in the Bay area, that can’t even qualify for low income housing because they don’t even make enough income. For example some people on Social Security disability may get approximately $12K to maybe $14K annually. In order to qualify for some low income housing programs you need a minimum income of $16K. I’m not even referring to homeless, this is the working poor. So even with some programs a 1bed apartment would be maybe $ 1,200 a month which is good compared to the outrageous rent prices, BUT not if you only receive 1,200 a month!!
    Also I was watching the news the other day and they were talking about the taxes that the City of Santa Clara receive as well as the state of California I believe from Levi’s stadium and the 49ers is in the millions. Well what’s up with that, why don’t they stop lining there own pockets and start using that to help the people that have been living here for years. Not to confuse things but even though it doesn’t sound fair, it isn’t fair, life isn’t fair. But maybe some of the new ordinances that are revisited for low income housing need to have some type of stipulation that in order to qualify they have had to be living here for a certain amount of years, so people from other states don’t flock over here thinking they can get this great low income housing in the Bay Area. You say that’s not fair well is rent control fair for private home owners??? Anyways life too short. We need to start living not only existing.

  5. jessie 4 weeks ago
    Reply

    when is everyone going to get it, this all done by design!! You dont think these developers and government workers dont know what they are doing guess again. our so called government is behind everything. The powers that be are the cause and its us stupid people who dont say anything and just sit by and let it happen. Its greedy people behind the rent increases “how much more can we squeeze out of the renters?!!” these people say the whole while they are smiling about it. People like the tax guys this happened me my landlord wanted to up rent by a couple of hundred dollars per her tax guy. Excuse me what business is it of this tax’s man of her’s to say “oh look your renters have been paying the same amount rent for 10 years, you should increase the rent.” what if that couple hundred dollars means a couple cases of cat food litter, what if it was for food , or medical supplies, etc etc? So then just because the this tax man makes a suggestion like that that couple hundred of dollars is put into rent causing yet another hardship of the renter. You tell me is this fair? just cause the market value says so? … in my opinion rent, food , water , housing should be all free. These are basic needs that everyone should have and not pay for.
    Heres something to really think about people.

    Why do we have to pay to live on our planet?…. The planet makes enough for every single person on this planet as i type. Nobody should be without the basics to live not survive but to live. {People who are more awake or waking up to the fraud thats going on all around us will know what i mean by that comment) But for those who are still asleep think about it.
    Also,
    We the people need to come together and put a stop to all these nit-picky ordinances and statues and rules that the city imposes for money. Can’t do this with breaking a statue or ordinance , can’t do that for the fine is some ungodly amount . All that money is lining their pockets with the benefits and leave the public with close to nothing. Why doesn’t the city open up the city’s coffers, there is more than enough there to go around and to help with lowering rent prices. with all these packem and stackem housing going up can take care of the homeless problem really quick.
    in conclusion of my little rant
    Greed rules this planet, if we want change then everyone needs to get off the iphone, and tablets, video games, tv’s etc etc and care enough to want to change it, until then we are at their mercy if you can call it that.

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