With the price of housing rentals rising through the stratosphere, Mountain View city leaders last week endorsed facilitating micro-homes and in-law units as a way to provide more housing options. But elected leaders stopped short of lending their support to more controversial suggestions to control the cost of housing such as a rent-stabilization ordinance or new tenant protections.
The proposals came during the city's April 14 goal-setting meeting, a public brainstorming session intended to find out what policy ideas the City Council wanted staff to investigate. Any proposals that generated a consensus among the council members were made priorities for staff to analyze during the next two years.
In a prior round in February, the council made improving housing affordability one of its top priorities, along with enhancing environmental sustainability and better transportation options. Over the last two months, city staff as well as a hodgepodge of advisory groups offered suggestions on ways to implement these goals.
The divide was evident among council members on the best method to solve the local housing dilemma. Councilman John Inks came out against any government-mandated rent controls, although he admitted that he probably wouldn't be able to afford current rental costs in Mountain View.
"I'm afraid there's some misunderstanding about how the rental market works," Inks said. "Rental housing isn't designed to be a permanent home for every single person. People come and people go."
Describing the housing situation as a crisis, Councilman Lenny Siegel urged his colleagues to do more to aid renters in town. He referenced a recent incident in which tenants of an entire apartment complex learned their leases would not be renewed unless they could prove they make more than $13,000 a month.
"We have a problem: A lot of people are being forced out of town," he said. "My children's generation have no prospect of buying a home. We need to figure out some way of preventing them from being essentially expelled from town."
Council members came to support ideas to boost the supply and diversity of homes being built. A majority of leaders supported looking into future policies to promote accessory units, also known as in-law homes or "granny units", along with micro-homes.
The council asked staff to develop a housing policy to prevent future residential developments from reducing the total housing units in town. The council also backed staff recommendations to investigate housing in the North Bayshore and East Whisman areas, and to help produce a future housing-themed educational program at the local library.
The council also approved a number of ideas to promote environmental sustainability and transportation. City leaders threw their support behind making sustainability a theme for this year's "Call for Artists" exhibition series.
The city's reclaimed water program also needs improvements to reduce its salinity, the council said. As for transportation projects, city leaders prioritized completing the last segment of a transit trail in the North Bayshore and working on regional traffic solutions through Joint Venture Silicon Valley.