The city of Mountain View has now joined an exclusive list of Bay Area cities that have received housing element approval from the state.
According to the California Department of Housing & Community Development (HCD), the only other city in Santa Clara County with a compliant housing element is Milpitas.
The housing element is a state-mandated, once-every-eight years process in which cities must prove how they’ll meet housing targets set by the state. For Mountain View, that meant showing how it was going to accommodate adding more than 11,000 housing units to the city's stock through 2031.
After the Mountain View City Council approved a draft housing element last month, the city sent it off to the California Department of Housing & Community Development (HCD) with hopes that it would pass muster.
That long-awaited approval came in the form of a letter on Friday, May 26, city officials said in a statement. The state deemed Mountain View's latest draft to be in "substantial compliance" with housing element law.
“I’m very proud,” Mayor Alison Hicks told the Voice in an interview. “It was a rigorous process this time around, and we’re one of the few cities in our region to have a certified housing element now.”
Hicks said she’s most excited about the displacement prevention and mitigation programs included in the housing element.
“As there are a lot more tech jobs here, there are many families that do the essential work to run our city, whether it’s teaching, nursing, grocery store clerks, landscapers, child care – many of these people are being displaced,” Hicks said. “So displacement prevention is one of the things that’s important to be, and partnering with affordable housing developers is important to me.”
Now that it has a compliant document on the books with the state, the city also gets to close the door on builder's remedy, a stipulation of state law that allows developers to skirt around a city’s local zoning laws if the city is out of compliance with state housing element law.
“For me, that just means that we can focus our time on all the other work that we do,” Hicks said of builder’s remedy ending. “Making our downtown better, making sure we have adequate parks as we grow, working out the situation with the schools as we grow, affordable housing, working on community-controlled housing.”
The state's approval comes after more than two years of work by city staff and council, the city's statement said, adding that the final product "includes programs supporting affordable housing production, preservation, tenant protections, fair housing, homelessness prevention and many more."
As the city moved through the housing element update process, some community members criticized the draft for not doing enough to ensure that affordable housing gets built in the city. Mayor Hicks noted that the city only has so much control over this.
“We do affordable housing in two ways: Either as inclusionary housing, which developers include within the market rate housing that they’re building, or it’s subsidized, and we largely use the Measure A bond (to do that),” Hicks said. “The city has no magic way to create affordable housing, and we’re at the mercy of either funding sources or inclusionary housing. I want a lot more of it, but we have to work within those confines.”
Hicks said she believes that with the new housing element now approved, Mountain View "will continue to lead in affordable housing development in the years to come.”
Editor's note: This story was expanded with additional information after it was first published on May 27.