The city of Half Moon Bay plans to address a severe housing crisis by moving forward with tenant protections, using existing housing funds to spearhead development, and amending regulations to encourage affordable housing. 

At the July 16 Half Moon Bay City Council meeting, council members and the public heard a variety of ways the city is working to create and encourage affordable housing. 

The city’s housing consultant and previous director of San Mateo County’s Housing Department, Bill Lowell, defines the affordable housing as that which carries deed restrictions limiting rental rates or resale prices. 

“In order to develop new housing, you need funding for that, good locally adopted policies, land, and community support,” Lowell said. 

Average rent in Half Moon Bay is $3,100 per month. In order to afford this rent using the federal government standard of 30 percent of gross household income for rent, a household would have to earn about $120,000 per year. 

According to the city’s staff report, 25 percent of households in Half Moon Bay make less than $50,000 per year. 

Currently, the city has about $2.5 million in its affordable housing fund.

“I do not like weighing in on the direction for the funding until we have a project,” said Mayor Harvey Rarback. “I would like to see a three-story apartment house with 50 units restricted to low or very-low income with a strong preference for people who live or work on the coast.” 

Half Moon Bay, as with 16 other jurisdictions in San Mateo County, has an ordinance providing a mechanism to generate affordable housing funds. But only Redwood City has adopted a policy stating how the funds will be allocated. 

Potential uses for the funds include purchasing land, providing funding for predevelopment expenses, leveraging other funds, or preserving existing affordable housing stock. 

The council’s direction to staff is to opt for an “over-the-counter” approach to spending the money. 

“That approach is one where it’s first come, first served and we will evaluate projects as they come in,” said City Manager Bob Nisbet. 

Within city limits, there are eight affordable housing complexes, including Lesley Gardens, Half Moon Bay Village and Main Street Park. Several council members said they would like to build affordable apartments. 

The city is also considering creating a community land trust, which could help push forward housing development. Community land trusts are nonprofit organizations that hold land in perpetuity. People either rent or buy their houses at below market prices from the land trust, according to Lowell. 

Councilwoman Debbie Ruddock stated she was interested in learning more, but also wanted to focus on things that could be done in the more immediate future. 

“Community land trusts look attractive, but I would like more research on them,” Ruddock said. “I see that more of a longer-term thing.” 

A tenant protection measure was presented earlier this year, but it faced opposition from some stakeholders. However, city council expressed the desire to continue to pursue minimum lease terms, 90-day notice before eviction, and tenant-to-landlord mediation services.

Deputy City Attorney Sara Clark said the city chose to exclude relocation assistance from a potential ordinance for a variety of reasons. At the state level, Assembly Bill 1482 would impose a variety of tenant protection measures statewide. 

It would, among other things, require a one-month relocation payment for “no-fault just cause” evictions, such as the owner deciding to move back in. 

Councilwoman Deborah Penrose asked staff to determine how many “mom-and- pop” landlords there are in Half Moon Bay. 

The council agreed to hold off on relocation assistance for a later date after the other renter protection measures receive a vote. 

But as the city continues to grapple with finding ways to address a critical housing crisis, some younger residents addressed the city council, speaking about struggles. 

Nicole Cordova, a 16-year-old Half Moon Bay High School student, knows first-hand the challenges of housing insecurity. 

“My family lost our house about a year ago and we had to live in a storage room for shelter for a period of time,” Cordova said. “We are now in a home, but I know we are not the only ones who have struggled with this.” 

At the next two planning commission meetings this month, Jill Ekas, the city’s community development director, explained that zoning regulations and elements of the Land Use Plan will be discussed. 

City staff also intends to move forward with an ordinance on tenant protections to return to city council for a public hearing this year. 

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