By Roz Rogoff
House SharingUploaded: Feb 17, 2014
The San Ramon City Council is holding a Public Workshop at 7 pm Tuesday, February 18, 2014, "To Gather Public Input on Issues and Concerns Related to the Update of the Housing Element and Land Use Changes within the Crow Canyon Specific Plan Area."
I wrote a Commentary about this in my original San Ramon Observer to oppose putting a housing overlay on Beta Court, which could have forced out the established Service Commercial businesses located there. I am still against putting a housing overlay on Beta Court but that doesn't seem to be an issue this time around.
This Workshop is also a special Joint Meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission. Why is this even necessary to consider? Many residents are unaware of the pressures put on cities to meet state and regional housing requirements.
Councilman Dave Hudson frequently talks about ABAG and RHNA as if everyone knows what these cryptic acronyms mean. ABAG is the Association of Bay Area Governments and RHNA is the Regional Housing Needs Allocation. The RHNA requirements for San Ramon are at the bottom of page 2 of the staff report linked above.
The income levels are shown as a percent of the Median Household Income in San Ramon. The most recent study I could find shows this as approximately $120,000. That would make Very Low Income from 0 to $60K. My income when I was working full time 15 years ago was about $60K. Now it's about half that, so I qualify as Very Low Income.
When these housing numbers came up a few years ago, I wrote a commentary in my original San Ramon Observer website about Housing Snobs. I was surprised and disappointed by the attitude of some residents against those of us who don't earn over $100K a year.
I'm not the only Very Low Income person living in my neighborhood. Many homeowners bought our homes 15 to 30 years ago before real estate prices went out of sight. Also many of the low wage earners living nearby are renters. They rent a room from the homeowner or rent the house as a group and share the house and rent.
The most egregious example of house sharing was across the street from me. That house was purchased to be a rental when the real estate prices were at their height. The owner then partitioned it into many small spaces to rent.
She must have had a dozen people living in an 1100 sq. ft. house. She had at least two units in the garage and even rented the shed in the back. Despite cramming so many people into such a small house, every one of the people I met who lived there was nice.
The house next door to me was originally rented to a family. When the couple divorced, he stayed in the house and sublet the rooms to two other guys. They were all nice neighbors. They had to move when the owner needed to move back in, but regardless of who is living near me I have rarely had any problems with any of my neighbors, rich or poor.
Renting a room in a private home, or sharing a home among several separate renters is the way most Very Low Income residents can afford to live and work here. Renting out rooms is an easy way for many homeowners to afford to live here themselves.
This seems to be a better solution to providing affordable housing without what ABAG calls "impact correction," which is a factor built into ABAG's methodology, "to allocate a higher proportion of lower income households to San Ramon in order to balance the regional income distribution across the region." House sharing is a more natural way to balance income distribution without imposing housing numbers on cities for artificial income distribution.
I don't know if there is a way to add house sharing to ABAG's RHNA numbers instead of mandating higher numbers of Very Low, Low, and Moderate Income housing developments in our required Housing Plan. I plan to attend the workshop on Tuesday to find out.