Bay Area Real Estate Development

Palo Alto Launches Affordable Housing Zone

After years of giving little attention to constructing more affordable housing, Palo Alto recently took a major step forward. In April, the City Council voted to create an “Affordable Housing Combining District,” a new zoning tool that grants affordable housing projects greater density and height allowances, as well as less restrictive parking regulations. The change will make it easier for affordable housing projects to get approved and move forward, Palo Alto Online reports.

Mayor Liz Kniss voiced her support for the decision, saying that Palo Alto needs to harken back to the 1970s, when the city had more diversity in occupation types and income levels. "The diversity in our community is so important," Kniss told the publication. "It's important for our kids, it's important for you and it's important for those people who are here. Without production, you no longer get that diversity."

The news is a milestone for the city, which has had an unimpressive track record for affordable housing in recent years. In the last 10 years, only a handful of developments gained approval and were built. Feasible proposals were also few and far between, due to factors such as high construction costs and rising land costs. But it’s clear the city is making efforts to change that. This recent decision by the City Council is a much-needed move for those who want to move to Palo Alto but can’t afford the city’s sky-high mortgages or rent prices. It’ll also help existing residents who can’t keep up with rising rents to avoid getting priced out of the city altogether.

This decision isn’t the only sign of Palo Alto’s new commitment to building affordable housing. Earlier this year, the city also approved the Housing Work Plan, which set the goal of creating 300 new housing units every year through 2030. Hitting this goal would mark a major increase in Palo Alto’s affordable housing creation. 

Santa Clara County is one of the priciest regions of the San Francisco Bay Area, with CoreLogic data showing that the median home price was $1.2 million as of March 2018, Palo Alto Online reports. That’s a 33.6 percent increase from March 2017, when the median home price was $898,000.

Palo Alto’s prices are especially unaffordable, given the high number of major companies and start-up businesses that are in the city’s vicinity. Google, Facebook, Tesla, and HP are just a few major employers in and around Palo Alto. Many workers who can’t afford to live in or near the city commute by car, train, or bus to get to work every day. By creating more affordable housing, more employees will have the option of living closer to work, thus reducing their commuting times and also helping to decrease traffic congestion.

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