This is part of a series of Q&As for Mayoral and City Council candidates for the November 2020 election. Questions were submitted by Milpitas residents.
Would you support repealing the ordinance that says developers can pay in-lieu fees instead of providing affordable housing?
Voltaire Montemayor: No. Repealing the Ordinance is not comparable enough for me; it is not a lasting deal. I assume that I could hardly pay the rent, but I need the affordable housing to stay.
Rich Tran: Support.
City Council Candidates
Evelyn Chua: Yes. I’m in favor of amending the housing ordinance to disallow developers to have the option to pay fees instead of allocating 15% of developments to affordable housing. This will increase affordable housing stock in our city.
Julian Jose Nool Hilario Jr.: Milpitas is experiencing an on-going housing crisis along with other cities in Santa Clara County. According to the FY 2020-21 Adopted Budget, Milpitas’ median home value is about $1 million, and the median rent is $2825. Renters in the city need to earn $54.32 per hour – 3.5 times the City of Milpitas minimum wage – to afford the median rent of $2825. My priority is to make affordable housing units and limit fair market housing for the next eight years. We need our developers to create these affordable housing. Therefore I would like to increase the in-lieu fees to encourage developers to develop affordable housing or receive more funding.
Robert Marini: I’m against it. What is the point in Milpitas passing an ordinance and then give developers a chance to get around the ordinance?
Demetress Morris: I will repeal the ordinance that says developers can pay in-lieu fees instead of providing affordable housing. The property and materials needed to properly create affordable housing goes beyond 15% of building costs to Milpitas.
Bob Nuñez: The ordinance cannot be repealed. It could be modified. Developers of properties must be provided options besides just providing affordable housing. Options could be to build affordable housing on the properties, donate buildable land within the City of Milpitas, buy current housing stock within the City limits, etc. This would provide affordable housing for both low and medium income residents.
Anthony Phan: These fees go directly to our quickly-diminishing housing fund. Although it may appear like a small figure to some, our housing fund has made monumental, life-changing impacts, providing desperately-needed relief and assistance for underserved Milpitas communities and hundreds of families. How can any candidate be so cruel to advocate cutting this lifeline? Not long ago, when residents of Sunnyhills Apartments faced risk of immediate eviction, our housing fund directly allowed the City to take action and keep nearly 200 families housed. Any person on the Council, who was actually present and worked on this issue would have known that, as we were racing against the clock to resolve the matter, utilizing these dollars was the only realistic and legally feasible option at that time. This is no exaggeration. Without those dollars, hundreds of residents would have been evicted. In today’s context, this fund can also be used to expand our Renter’s Assistance Program to provide immediate subsidy and relief for tenants struggling to pay rent. Our housing fund was diminishing, meaning less resources available for critical housing services and assistance. That’s why it was imperative for us to create new funding opportunities to meet the housing needs of our community.
Suraj Viswanathan: I support restructuring our tax, fee, zoning, permit, and regulatory structures to enable developers to build smaller, more-affordable “starter” homes for young people just out of school and young families just starting out. We need a “step-up” approach to housing, not mega-mansions which are built so developers can recoup their investment.
Tiffany Vuong: It may not be legal to ban developers from paying in-lieu fees. If it is possible, I will support a ban because each time we approve 100% market-rate housing, we are losing out on affordable units and have less and less land to turn into affordable housing. If it is not legally possible to ban in-lieu fees, I will increase the fees that developers pay in order to offset the negative impact to our community when they opt out of building affordable units. Housing affordability is also affected by commercial developments, which result in an increased demand for affordable housing due to the jobs they bring. To offset this impact, cities levy commercial linkage fees on the new office spaces, warehouses, hotels, retail properties, and industrial developments. This is a common-sense measure to bring in revenue for housing. In Milpitas, the commercial linkage fees are $8 per square foot across the board, while neighboring cities are holding developers more accountable for their impact on affordable housing. For instance, the CLF fees for industrial development in various neighboring cities range from $10 to $24 per square foot. I am committed to making sure developers pay their fair share towards our affordable housing funds.