“There’s no grand slam when it comes to housing in Mill Valley,” Councilmember Urban Carmel said. “We are hitting singles on this year after year. It costs a million bucks to do one big unit of affordable housing. We’ll do these for $10,000 each.” Carmel was referring to the new “House Mill Valley” program from Covia, a Walnut Creek-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to “promote and cultivate healthy communities for positive aging. The program matches residents with more house than they need with people looking for more affordable housing opportunities than Mill Valley currently offers. MORE INFO HERE.
“This is a lovely effort that the city is taking on here to find room in our existing housing stock and create smaller opportunities,” Mayor John McCauley has said of the Covia program.
At a meeting of the City’s Housing Advisory Committee last month, City officials decided to explore the prospect, in a thoughtful, measured way, of diving into a process that they hope will lead to that grand slam Carmel referenced.
That process continues at a June 21st City Council meeting, when the Council will review a proposal to partner with a non-profit housing developer on a 40-unit affordable housing project adjacent to the City-owned Public Safety Building at 1 Hamilton Drive.
The “why” is straightforward, City officials say. They note that “an attainable level of rent for store clerks, teachers and physical therapists is in the range of $1,700 a month, while the average market-rate 2-bedroom unit averages $2,700 a month to rent. This disparity in housing costs, known as the “housing affordability gap” impacts our community and those that can afford to live in Mill Valley. A low-income housing project helps to bridge the affordability gap by charging the renter only what they can afford,” according to a staff report on the subject.
“The lack of affordable housing has also affected the City of Mill Valley’s staff recruitment,” the report continues. “City Departments continue to face difficulty in filling open positions, with several top candidates declining job opportunities in Mill Valley due to the high costs of housing in Marin.”
City officials likely expect a tense discussion on the proposal. A citywide review in October 2020 of all 71 City-owned parcels to potentially create an affordable housing development in town for the first time since 1986 quickly became largely a neighborhood’s defense of a pair of City-owned vacant lots near Scott Highlands Park. Although there was no proposal to sell parks, most of the community input on the issue of the identified sites focused on the possible sale of the park itself. City officials backed off the park-adjacent lots as a possible location of, or as a funding source for, affordable housing but pledged their continued commitment to create affordable housing in Mill Valley.
That work continues at 6:30 pm June 21.