As another holiday season comes to an end and we are left with hopefully happy and plentiful memories, I hope we are also cognizant of our neighbors. Not only looking at our next door neighbors in Foster City but those in neighboring communities.
Now that the Governor has won his little battle to confiscate our local redevelopment funds, we will be put to task to find funding sources to build affordable housing within our cities for families with low incomes. We are mandated by the state to build new housing and a certain percentage of new development is to be available to families with lower incomes than markets serve. Some cities, like Hillsborough, because of their demographics and land limits, pay other cities to absorb their percentage. San Mateo County was the first to use this practice to meet our mandate by one method or another.
There are many agencies in the county that watch out for, support and work toward this goal. I am on the Board of Directors of an agency called HEART (Housing Endowment and Regional Trust). All twenty cities in our county contribute funds which in turn are matched by private donors including banks to leverage money to loan to developers of affordable housing. All funds go toward building housing or helping first-time homebuyers (low income housing). The local developments partly financed by HEART in San Mateo, San Bruno, Millbrae, and South San Francisco are evidence of the agency’s success. Even though those units are not in Foster City, there are still those that will be lucky enough to live there and commute closer to Foster City than from Livermore. HEART has loaned one couple funds so they could buy a condominium here. I met this couple last year and the woman actually spoke at last year’s HEART fundraising luncheon, where she thanked us for offering this opportunity for her and her husband to buy their first home. There are many other nonprofits in the county that address the needs of our less fortunate as well but their coffers are low as well.
Bottom line is we must think outside the city limits of Foster City, we must look beyond our borders and take into consideration the needs of San Mateo County. As my friend John Kelly has said for 25 years, we don’t need so many separate cities each with their own government and repetitive services. As you all know we are taking steps to consolidate, outsource and “trim” the fat from all 20 cities in our county. I know of one city that may have to declare bankruptcy because they borrowed general fund monies for redevelopment projects and now find themselves not able to pay back the general fund loan because those redevelopment monies have gone to the state.
Mark Moulton, executive director of HEART explained also that each city pays their HEART dues in different ways, some with general funds and some with RDA funds so it is unclear at this time how many cities will still be able to “afford” to pay their fair share. Over the next couple of months Mark and his staff will evaluate the effect on all these cities due to the loss of these funds.
Hopefully some resolution will result from Jerry Hill and our other representatives to find a way to retain some of those dollars that all the cities have come to rely on. Wish they would have thought of a way to fix the system in place. Shouldn’t someone have implemented an oversight of how these funds were used instead of just killing the funds? Some cities were being a “little creative” as to how they used them, so why not use one of the 500 state agencies the state employs to look into the misuse of funds?
All Peninsula cities MUST start thinking San Mateo County. We must all be willing to share the good times and bad as we collectively struggle through these economic times. None of us can stand alone.......when someone asks where we live we should all start saying San Mateo County. Exclusiveness is ineffective and unfair to the residents of all the cities in this County.
Answers anyone? Email me at email@example.com.