PIEDMONT -- The city's housing element report is complicated, challenging and ponderous, but necessary.

Five Planning Commission public study sessions have been held so far, the latest one on Monday, to discuss the ramifications of the city's housing element, part of Piedmont's General Plan. The report details to the state Department of Housing and Community Development what steps the city will take to comply with mandates to provide affordable housing units.

City Planner Kate Black explained the constraints that the city faces.

"Unlike most cities, we don't have vacant land, county land, an old site ready for redevelopment. We don't have a blighted part of town, nothing but well maintained single-family homes that tend to be big houses on small lots. We are a densely developed city. Our opportunities are much more limited than other communities," Black said.

The last adopted housing element was submitted in June 2011, covering the period from 2007-2014. The new report will cover Jan. 31, 2015, to Jan. 31, 2023.

Piedmont's housing needs allocation for the current period was 40 units -- 13 very-low-income, 10 low-income, 11 moderate-income and six above-moderate-income. All municipalities in the state have to try to comply with mandated housing needs as population centers grow but incomes may not keep pace with high rents.


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According to Black, the city has made good progress toward meeting the current goals. In the very-low-income category, 13 units were mandated and 13 units built. She explained that because Piedmont is largely built out and consists of mostly single-family dwellings, second or "granny flat" units are encouraged and used. In the low-income category, 10 units were mandated with two units built. Moderate-price units required 11 with seven built. Above-moderate units asked for six; 13 units have been approved but only one unit built.

"The city has roughly one more year in the planning period, so it is likely that these numbers will edge closer (or exceed) targets in the coming year," Black said in her report.

Black added that of the 23 units that were added to Piedmont's housing stock so far for 2007-14, 96 percent were second units, with the exception of one single-family detached home. She explained that second units "can be a good thing for Piedmont families."

They can rent a second unit at a low rate to an au pair to care for children. Later, that unit can be used by seniors to house a caregiver, or they can move to the second unit while their grown children occupy the larger house. The only constraint is that property owners cannot rent out the house and the second unit, she said.

The challenge to provide for very-low-income households will rise in the next reporting period from 13 to 24 units, and 14 low-income units over the next eight years. The city is studying zone changes to allow for residential over retail, reducing parking requirements to one space per unit from two, and allowing smaller lots of 8,000 square feet.

Staff plans to hold a town meeting in June or July to solicit more input, and then schedule a final study session with the Planning Commission to develop a working draft. The draft will be forwarded to the City Council for review, then submitted to the state by Jan. 31, 2015.

"The feedback provided by the commission and the general public will be important in shaping the policies and actions in the updated housing element," Black said.

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