Affordable workforce housing is very much needed in Marin County. In Novato, many, if not most, of our police officers and teachers cannot afford to live here. Much the same is true of our firefighters, public works employees, and others. This is not good for the community because in a state of emergency it will be hard for those, on whom we depend to keep us safe, to reach Novato. Our sense of community suffers when the people who are responsible for protecting us and teaching our children are only available during working hours.
Over the last decade, we created 600 units at the former Navy housing site at Hamilton, 50 percent of which are for purchase as workforce housing. We gave our essential workers – police, fire, teachers, other City, County and School District employees – the first shot at the housing, bringing these workers home. These units were built in character with our community, with lots of open space and neighborhood parks. Novato, many years ago, stepped up and supported construction of Homeward Bound, our only 80-bed homeless shelter in Marin County; the Next Key which provides about 30 apartments units of transitional housing. Last year, we celebrated with Homeward Bound the completion of 14 townhomes that we contributed towards to provide homeless families a ‘place to call home’. We have done a lot in Novato.
The other area where we need more affordable housing is for our seniors. We have approved senior housing projects in Novato, some of which are dedicated as affordable units. But, we have not kept pace with the increasing need for senior housing and we must do more to provide the housing that seniors need. In-fill projects are good for seniors because they do not generate traffic and/or require a lot of parking.
Bottom line, though, is that future affordable housing needs to be compatible with our neighborhoods and small town character. The City of Novato should not have a requirement for 30 units per acre which fits well in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and other urban areas, but not Novato. Our density should be the same as Sonoma and Napa Counties which is 20 units per acre. I have and will continue to work with our State legislators to get this density requirement permanently changed to maintain our small town character.