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Three New Housing Bills to Impact Multifamily Real Estate Market

The multifamily commercial real estate market is likely to be impacted by three housing bills currently making their way through the California legislature. Senate Bills 330 and 13, and Assembly Bill 1485, each seek to relieve the state’s housing crisis by allowing additional construction and streamlining the approval process.

Sponsored by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), SB 330 will limit how strict cities can make their zoning. According to Bisnow, the proposal “prevents governments from downzoning until 2025; setting parking minimums or imposing housing moratoriums; or enacting other local measures that have made housing development nearly impossible in space-strapped areas.” It also “limits the number of public hearings on a zoning-compliant housing development proposal to five, and the length of time its permits can be considered.” Ideally this will make it easier and faster (and therefore cheaper) to build multifamily housing.

Assembly Bill 1485 aims to expand on 2018’s SB 35, a bill that was supposed to remove “discretionary review and other processes for mixed-income, completely zoning-compliant housing development proposals in cities not meeting their state-determined housing needs.” But due to strict qualification requirements, only three projects have been able to take advantage of the original law’s streamlining effort. The new law clears the pathway to more projects by loosening restrictions. Under AB 1485, 20% of new development units would be reserved for incomes of less that 120% of the area’s median income, a reduction from the previous requirement of 50%.

Finally, SB 13, sponsored by Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), is designed to encourage the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) by removing or decreasing fees. In addition, it “allows for automatic approval of an ADU permit application if a local agency has not acted upon the application in 60 days” and “removes the requirement that the owner of an ADU live in the main home while renting out the ADU, meaning both the main dwelling and accessory unit can be rented.” While this will not directly apply to the multifamily industry, the additional availability of ADU rental units may soften the rental housing market.

If they make it through the committee and amendment processes, each of these three bills will be voted on in early September.

Source: Bisnow

5 US cities with the highest cost of living

According to a recent report by Move.org, the Bay Area’s major cities continue to rank in the top five for the highest cost of living nationwide. San Francisco holds the top slot, with New York City close behind, followed by San Jose, Oakland, and Boston. The report measured the average monthly cost for rent (a 1-bedroom apartment), food (groceries and some restaurant meals), gas, utilities (electricity, water, etc.), and internet for each city.

Surprising no one, San Francisco, California is the most expensive, with rent among the highest in the nation; rent makes up 80% of the $4,210.60 monthly cost of living in the city. The city also has some of the highest gas prices at $197.88 per month, though residents who commute via bike or public transit can avoid these costs. Food is expensive, around the 80th or 90th percentile, but utilities are comparably cheap at $123.22 per month, about 30% of the national average. Internet costs are pretty middle-of-the-road compared to other cities, averaging about $66.62 per month.

New York, New York is just $250 behind SF, with an average cost of living of $3,956.11. Food is the problem here, costing over twice as much as San Francisco, at $468.60 per month. Rent is also extremely high, at $3,126.35. Gas is more expensive than the national average, around the median value, at $155.55 per month, and internet is just about average at $62.77. Utilities cost a little less than elsewhere, around $142.84 per month.

San Jose, California is the third most expensive city to live in, with lower rents than SF or New York but high gas prices and above-average food costs. The $3,289.07 cost of living includes $2,555.85 for rent, $186.15 for gas, $359.85 for food, $63.36 for internet, and $123.86 for utilities (significantly cheaper than the national average).

Despite Oakland’s reputation for being cheaper than the City, its cost of living is still fourth-highest nationwide, at $3,212.14 per month, only about $1,000 less than San Francisco. Rent and gas are the highest costs compared to the median, at $2,481.65 per month and $175.95 per month. Food is just a little more expensive than the national average, around the 30th percentile, at $347.33 per month. Internet and utility costs are pretty average, at $65.00 and $142.21.

In the last spot of the top five is Boston, Massachusetts, with New York’s high rent and food costs. An average cost of living of $3,211.51 includes $2,420.26 for rent, $435.78 for food, $145.35 for gas, $62.97 for internet, and $147.15 for utilities.

Source: Move.org

Transit-oriented development on the rise

Cities across the Bay Area are opening up to transit-oriented development, building high-density housing with ground-floor retail near BART stations, including on BART-owned land. Despite neighbor complaints, cities are revising their zoning restrictions to allow bigger buildings near major transit hubs.

Most of the development is happening in the East Bay, with completed projects near at least eight stations and more under construction including a 402-unit apartment complex at MacArthur Station with 13,000 square feet of commercial space; 94 units at Fruitvale Station; 200 units at Pleasant Hill Station; 410,000 square feet of commercial space at West Dublin/Pleasanton Station; and 596 units at Walnut Creek Station. Planned projects in Millbrae, West Oakland, Lake Merritt, North Concord/Martinez, Balboa Park, and Fruitvale total over 2,300 units and over 2 million square feet of commercial space.

As zoning codes begin to relax near transit, future development opportunities could open up, strengthening the local markets for existing multifamily buildings as well as retail and office assets.

Source: SF Chronicle

Transit-oriented development changing how Oakland grows

When it comes to the future of Oakland, a good amount of the development that will change the city has one thing in common: the transit station nearby. 

Bay Area Rapid Transit has committed to an ambitious plan to build mixed-use transit-oriented developments around its stations throughout the Bay Area, and a number of those projects will be in Oakland.

Already, the transit authority has started to transform land around MacArthur Station in the northern part of the city as well as Fruitvale Station to the southeast. Construction is underway on Coliseum Transit Village from UrbanCore Development and Oakland Economic Development Corp.

Future plans call for continued development on those sites and projects to go up around downtown BART stations.

BART’s transit-oriented development policy states that the agency will only move forward with future developments in cities that have adopted station area plans, and Oakland has been at the forefront, BART’s Sean Brooks said. Brooks, the department manager of real estate and property development for BART, will speak about TODs at Bisnow’s The Evolution of Downtown Oakland March 13.

Projects already underway have required upzoning, and the city also has been progressive about parking requirements, Brooks said.

“The city has kind of bent over backwards to help and advance some of these projects,” he said.

Case in point: the planned development for West Oakland, which got through the planning commission in record time, he said. The project was helped along in no small part because of the affordable housing it is bringing to the city.

 

Read more at Bisnow Oakland

 

Silicon Valley has the highest housing costs in the U.S.

Report says both incomes and costs soaring in the state’s tech capitol.

It’s the best of time and the worst of times in Silicon Valley, at least according to Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a regional think-tank that issued its annual Silicon Valley Index last week.

The 2019 index, a “comprehensive report based on indicators that measure the strength of our economy and the health of our community,” describes the Valley as materially successful but fundamentally anxious, as new wealth puts additional stress on those most vulnerable.

The report defines Silicon Valley as a broad region encompassing parts of Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Alameda Counties, ranging from Daly City to Union City to Gilroy to Scotts Valley.

The index includes some data from San Francisco for context but does not include the city as part of its larger regional definition. Most of the data covers 2017, with some references to 2018 as well.

 

Read more at Curbed SF 

 

 

Fremont City Council balks at stronger renter protections, opts for ‘minor tweaks’ to rent review law

Majority of council feels one-year old rent review program is doing well.

In the first year of Fremont’s rent review program, nearly half of those who sought help with rent increases saw them lowered, but some renters and city council members still don’t think the program goes far enough to help tenants.

The update on the program was presented by staff at the recent Fremont City Council meeting, where the council subsequently voted to make some minor tweaks to its rent review ordinance, but backed off of strengthening discrimination and retaliation protections for renters.

Councilwoman Jenny Kassan and Councilman Vinnie Bacon said they would have preferred to beef up those protections, and look at adopting rent control in the city, but the other five members of the council chose the status quo.

The city’s review ordinance is intended to help landlords and renters mediate disputes over rent increases. The council adopted the ordinance in fall 2017, and the program went into effect in 2018.

 

Read more at East Bay Times

 

 

Stanford sues Santa Clara County over housing law

University claims it’s been unfairly targeted by ‘inclusionary housing’ ordinance.

Stanford University on Wednesday filed two lawsuits against Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, charging county officials of unfairly and illegally targeting the university with a recently adopted law that aims to promote more affordable housing on campus.

The university is contesting the new “inclusionary housing” law, which the board approved on Sept. 25 and which requires the university to designate 16 percent of all new housing units as below-market-rate housing. The two lawsuits, filed in state and federal courts, allege that the county’s law violates the Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. and California constitutions, which prohibit government entities from treating one individual differently from others in similar circumstances.

The university also indicated that it plans to sue the county over a separate law that the board had also passed on Sept. 25, one that significantly raised the “housing impact fees” that Stanford has to pay for every square foot of new development. Under the law, the fee is slated to go up from $36.22 to $68.50 per square foot.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, Stanford takes issues with both policies, though the new suit only pertains to the “inclusionary housing” law (Stanford has a later deadline for challenging the ordinance on impact fees). It argues that the county is illegally forcing Stanford to bear the burden of solving what the county itself had determined to be a regional problem: A severe shortage of affordable housing.

By targeting Stanford with its new affordable-housing requirement, the county is violating the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits states from denying “any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” the university alleges in a complaint.

“The County ordinance impermissibly singles out Stanford University,” Geoffrey L. Robinson, of the firm Perkins Coie LLP, wrote on behalf of Stanford in the federal lawsuit. “Through its ordinance, the County has intentionally imposed affordable housing requirements exclusively on housing development constructed by Stanford.”

Read more on Palo Alto Online

 

San Jose moves toward ordinance limiting Section 8 discrimination

Landlords in San Jose would no longer be able to advertise that they don’t take rental vouchers.

San Jose took a step toward making it harder for landlords to turn away would-be tenants who use vouchers to help pay the rent.

This week, the San Jose City Council directed the city attorney’s office to draft an ordinance aimed at giving renters with subsidies, commonly known as Section 8 vouchers, a fair chance on the private rental market. The so-called source of income ordinance would not force landlords to take the vouchers, but it would ban them from judging potential tenants who use subsidies differently from those who don’t and from explicitly advertising “No Section 8” on apartment listings.

If everything goes according to plan, the council will vote on the ordinance in the spring.

While a number of landlords blasted the proposal, saying it would force property owners to navigate convoluted regulations and paperwork, the city’s Housing Department said an ordinance is necessary to make sure families are able to find affordable housing.

Right now, there’s no law that prevents landlords from turning away voucher holders, and a city survey found most do, leaving low-income families scrambling to find homes in one of the nation’s tightest housing markets. Several national studies suggest that when cities and states have such ordinances in place, the percentage of landlords turning away voucher holders goes down and more people with vouchers are able to find places to rent.

“Voucher discrimination is happening in San Jose,” said Jacky Morales-Ferrand, the city’s housing director.

Several landlords told horror stories about Section 8 voucher holders who left rental units in bad shape. But tenants and tenant advocates countered that there’s no evidence voucher users are any better or worse than people who don’t use subsidies.

“We can’t judge the actions of a few and put it on the majority of the people,” said Robert Aguirre, who has used vouchers. “Not all Section 8 holders destroy property or disrespect the people around them.”

“We see clients all the time who are not able to rent housing, have to move away from San Jose, have to live in cars. … it’s absolutely heartbreaking to see that and this ordinance would help,” said Nadia Aziz, an attorney with the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley.

 

 

Read more on East Bay Times

 

 

Trump is getting involved in Opportunity Zones, and experts think that’s a good thing

Opportunity zones have become the darling of real estate investors since their adoption last year, but the still-under-the-radar program is poised to receive a lot more attention, and possibly scrutiny after it was promoted in the Oval Office last week.

President Donald Trump’s signing of an executive order to push more federal resources into the Opportunity Zone program is a step in the right direction and could bolster the little-known tax incentive program and the distressed communities that benefit from investments, experts said.

“I think investors in the marketplace are going to be excited that there are going to be a number of new federal benefits aligned to these zones,” Develop founder Steve Glickman said.

Glickman is a former Obama administration official and one of the original architects of the Opportunity Zone program, which was enacted as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

“Frankly, these zones need a lot more than private capital,” Glickman said. “They need infrastructure investment, they need to deal with crime, workforce training, and other strategies and dollars. Opportunity zones were always meant to stimulate that kind of holistic activity not just on a federal level, but on a state and local level.”

Erik Marks, a Seattle-based commercial real estate attorney and founder of Opportunity-Funds.com, a website that tracks opportunity zone funds and designated areas, said the executive order still does not address the current shortcomings and problems that are present from people trying to do opportunity zone deals now.

“I think the regulation may be useful, but this is not a problem-solving regulation,” Marks said. “I don’t know what his strategy is, but I think when there are opportunity zone successes, he has a clear opportunity to put himself and his Cabinet at the locations for the photo opportunity. I don’t mean to say that in a derogatory sense … This is to make sure [everyone knows] he’s still part of it.”

For the past year, the at-first unheralded Opportunity Zone program, passed last year as part of Trump’s $1.5 trillion Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, has flown under the mainstream radar.

The program’s goal is to generate economic development in the form of the redevelopment or the development of market-rate housing, affordable housing, new offices, retail buildings and businesses in these communities.

 

 

Read more on Bisnow

 

 

City passes plan for new SoMa homes

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a sweeping, years-in-the-making plan to transform Central SoMa, potentially bringing thousands of new homes and tens of thousands of jobs to the area, and ending nearly a decade of wrangling over the ambitious package of zoning changes.

The city defines Central SoMa as the area south of Market Street, north of Townsend, and squeezed between Second and Sixth.

It’s a space that includes the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), swaths of low-income housing, nearly 30 landmark buildings, the Flower Mart, and, soon, a stretch of the Central Subway along Fourth Street.

The Central SoMa Plan changes zoning and height limits throughout the neighborhood to encourage more growth, more density, and more diversity of use in future development and redevelopment.

The final passage came as no surprise, after lawmakers unanimously voted in favor of the Central SoMa Plan the first time it came before the board in November.

But the ramifications of the proposal—which took eight years and ran over 1,600 pages in its final form—are so potentially profound as to generate an air of drama about the final vote all on their own.

 

 

Read more on Curbed SF