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Policies & Programs - Housing


Healthy Housing
Policies & Programs



  • Support housing at all affordability levels and require new housing to meet the needs of the demographics of the community, including housing accessible to families, people with disabilities, and seniors.
  • Prioritize public land to develop affordable housing.
  • Achieve optimal job-housing balance[i] and job-housing fit.[ii] 
  • Optimize the use of single-homes to provide viable affordable housing options. For example, though home-sharing, junior and second units.
  • Increase affordable homeownership opportunities.
  • Enable the construction of housing that is affordable by design by reducing construction costs.
  • Promote employer-employee housing. To learn more visit: Home for All

Programs and actions to implement policies related to the production of new affordable housing:

  • In partnership with housing advocates, develop an assessment of current market, land use, and need for affordable housing.[iii]
    • Establish affordable housing unit targets by income level for the plan area to meet income level targets as set out in the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA).
    • Establish goals based on feasibility study specifying which housing type is for-sale and which are rentals, as well as market-rate vs. subsidized in plan area.
  • Utilize Affordable Housing Overlays to provide incentives for developers to build affordable housing, within specific districts. For more information:
  • Optimize the use of single-homes to provide a range of affordable housing options. Promote Home Sharing Programs, junior and second units. For more information, visit HIP Housing and  Second Unit Resource Center San Mateo County.
  • Create a comprehensive second unit amnesty/certification program that is informed by residents and owners of existing unpermitted second units to help homeowners bring second units up to code and ensure these dwellings are healthy and habitable while ensuring that existing tenants do not get displaced. For sample policies see: San Mateo County Amnesty Ordinance and Relocation Assistance Ordinance.
  • Develop partnerships with local agencies to design a targeted low interest loan and grant program for low income and wealth homeowners to support and incentivize use of second unit amnesty/certification program for existing unpermitted second units. For more policies on second units visit Home for All and 21 Elements.  
  • Identify and rezone sites to make well-designed workforce housing feasible. Sites should be close to amenities like transit, grocery stores and downtown corridors. [iv]

Public Lands for Affordable Housing

Dedicated Sources of Revenue for Affordable Housing

  • Jobs-Housing Linkage Fees. Also known as “affordable housing mitigation” or “commercial linkage fees,” these are typically one-time fees that local governments place on commercial developments to offset the increased housing need cre­ated by new jobs. For a list of Commercial and Residential Impact Fees and Inclusionary Zoning policies in San Mateo County please visit 21 Elements website and for more information on the policy visit the Land Value Capture Toolkit.
  • Housing Impact Fees. These fees are based on the idea that every person that moves into a market-rate home will generate a need for services that require employees who make less than the median income, such as hairdressers, coffee baristas, gardeners, healthcare workers, and teachers. After a nexus study is completed, a fee would be charged to the developer of new market-rate housing (sometimes including additions and improvements to existing homes).  For a list of Commercial and Residential Impact Fees in San Mateo County please visit 21 Elements website.
  • Density Bonus Ordinance. Allow an additional density bonus beyond that mandated by the state of California in exchange of additional affordable units. [vi] For more information visit Home For All Toolkit
  • Housing Trust Funds. Receive ongoing revenues from dedicated sources and direct those funds to affordable housing development that can stabilize communities facing gentrification and displacement pressures. This is an innovative model already being used in our county through the Housing Endowment and Regional (HEART) Trust of San Mateo County. [vii],[viii] 
  • For more information visit Home for All Toolkit.
  • Real Estate Transfer Taxes (RETTs). State, county and/or municipal sales taxes that legislatures can elect to apply to either the seller or buyer of a home. RETTs are common in the Bay Area and often support a city’s General Fund. RETTs can also be devoted to specific uses, such as affordable housing development. They are a form of value recapture, raising additional revenue as investment bolsters land value. RETTs also mitigate the same activities that can lead to displacement: high end real estate sales with rapid turnover.

Inclusionary Zoning (IZ)

  • Adopt new or strengthen existing inclusionary housing [ix] policies by including a higher percentage of affordable homes, deeper afford­ability levels, or more flexibility for the city to obtain fees in lieu of construction.[x]
  • Utilize public resources to achieve deeper levels of affordability through: mandating that some proportion of inclusionary units go to housing choice voucher holders (Section 8); offering home buyer assistance to purchasers of inclusionary housing homeownership units; enabling public agencies or nonprofit organizations to purchase and further subsidize inclusionary units: [xi]
  • Adopt tiers for current inclusionary zoning policies, requiring fewer affordable units if a developer chooses to produce units at deeper levels of affordability i.e. housing for extremely low, very low and low incomes.

Affordable Homeownership Opportunities [xii]

  • Partner with local agencies like HEART to increase affordable homeownership opportunities through both housing development and financial assistance.
  • Community Land Trusts ensure benefits, such as permanent affordability, while creating homeownership and equity opportunities for individual residents.
  • Limited Equity Housing Cooperatives are a partnership wherein residents collectively own and control their housing. The limited equity component limits the return on resale, ensuring that housing remains affordable to future residents.
  • Community Development Corporations (CDCs) with Resident Shareholders can spearhead a real estate project that offers low-income/low-wealth residents the opportunity to own equity. Owning CDC project stock provides residents with financial benefits and voice in the neighborhood development process. This tool directs profits from development back into the community, ensuring benefit for existing residents.



  • Preserve and expand naturally occurring and publicly assisted affordable housing [xiii]
  • Promote sensitive code enforcement practices to balance the protection of existing residents from displacement while preserving a healthy housing stock.
  • Prevent the loss of existing subsidized and “naturally occurring” affordable housing: [xiv]
  • Condo Conversion Ordinances restrict the amount of rental housing that can be converted to condominiums or other forms of market-rate ownership of housing. [xv] To learn more see: Grand Boulevard Initiative
  • Property tax incentives provide owners with financial incentives to preserve the affordability of a rental property. These incentives can be delivered through property tax exemptions or abatements. A property tax exemption lowers the amount of tax a property owner owes by reducing the property’s assessed value. A property tax abatement can lower an owner’s property taxes by providing a credit against taxes owed. Both approaches can incentivize owners to maintain their subsidized or unsubsidized property as affordable. [xvi] To learn more visit the Grand Boulevard Initiative.
  • Incentivize the retention of existing subsidize units. Establishing “statutory leases” in which tenants in converted buildings get mandatory temporary lease renewals at rent levels roughly equal to those in effect under the federal program before a conversion, or through any requirement that increases an owner’s conversion costs, for example by charging a significant fee per household for displaced tenants.[xvii]
  • Other policies include: Single Room Occupancy (SRO) preservation ordinances; Foreclosure prevention; demolition restrictions; Right of First Refusal; and relocation assistance. [xviii]
  • Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA): a law that requires owners of rental properties to give tenants the opportunity to purchase the property before the owner can sell it on the market or issue a notice for tenants to vacate for purpose of discontinuance or demolition.

Develop a strategy for preserving subsidized rental housing: [xix]

  • Create preservation catalogs. Assess the risk of specific properties losing their rent restrictions or government subsidies (Section 8, Low-Income Tax Credit, public housing etc.) over time.[xx] The National Preservation Database is an address-level inventory of federally assisted rental housing in the US, it provides information on affordable housing properties by location, funding stream, and subsidy end dates.
  • Identify Priority Preservation Areas (PPAs).Identifying priority preservation areas can help cities target investment and better leverage scarce resources. [xxi]
  • Expand resources for preservation. Housing trust funds and linkage fees can generate flexible funding that can be used to meet a wide range of affordable housing needs, including preservation. For more information on local preservation loans visit HEART.
  • Facilitate transfers to new owners. Sometimes communities must also work to ensure subsidized properties are owned by mission-driven owners who are committed to actively managing the property and preserving long-term affordability. This requires the cultivation of mission-driven owners (often nonprofits) as well as the facilitation and financing of purchases. [xxii]
  • Pass “Right of First Refusal” or “Right of First Purchase” laws that provide a qualified nonprofit developer, government agency, or tenant association to purchase a subsidized rental housing property if and when the owner decides to stop participating in the subsidy program.[xxiii], [xxiv]
  • Require owners of subsidized or rent restricted units to conduct a public process and a tenant impact assessment when owner plans to discontinue subsidies or rent restrictions.[xxv] For example, require written prepayment notices more than five (5) months ahead of a contract termination, or mandate a “tenant impact statement” which requires owners of assisted housing developments to provide a statement of the impact of any proposed termination at least 12 months prior to termination. [xxvi]
  • Waive permit fees for affordable housing rehabilitation conducted through Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) or other San Mateo County programs. [xxvii]

Promote sensitive code enforcement mechanisms: [xxviii]

  • In partnership with private and public entities, maintain database of housing code violations to identify risk properties and tailor code enforcement program to the needs of the community.
  • Adopt a proactive rental inspection program requiring routine inspections of all rental housing based on a data-driven risk assessment of rental properties. San Mateo County has an Augmented Housing Inspection Programs for properties with four or more units that receive high number of complaints from tenants.
  • Establish a variety of supplementary programs such as:
    • Provide educational resources for both residents and property owners.
    • Establish financing mechanisms to facilitate and subsidize repairs.
    • Identify community partners like Rebuilding Together Peninsula and financial resources for tenants that lack the means to fix code violations.



  • Ensure that new plans and investments benefit existing and future residents and minimize the risk of displacement of existing residents.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to protect residents from displacement, for example by ensuring that displaced households can find comparable housing that they can afford in the same area.
  • Regulate the private housing market to stabilize renters in communities experiencing rising housing costs.
  • Establish tenant-landlord mediation through ordinances that offer or require mediation of rent increases above a certain level. See: Home for All
  • Establish Just Cause Eviction controls. [xxix] Ensure that landlords can only evict with proper cause, such as a tenant’s failure to pay rent or destruction of property. Just cause eviction ordinances often accompany rent stabilization ordinances. East Palo Alto has a just cause evictions ordinance. See: Home for All
  • Adopt Rent Stabilization to prevent displacement from privately-owned residential properties. In San Mateo County, East Palo Alto is the only jurisdiction with a rent stabilization ordinance. However, East Palo Alto, Brisbane, Pacifica, and San Mateo County have rent stabilization programs specifically for mobile homes. See: Home for All
  • For other best practices related to rent stabilization see: PolicyLink. 2001. “Rent Control.” Equitable Development Toolkit.
  • Establish a rent board to fairly and robustly implement the rent stabilization program. For best practices in the administration of a rent board see: “Strengthening Communities through Rent Control and Just-Cause Evictions: Case Studies from Berkeley, Santa Monica, and Richmond.” Urban Habitat. 
  • Transfer Taxes (also known as anti-flipping policies) are charged on the capital gains (profits) on properties that are bought and re-sold rapidly. Use the funds to create grants or loans for nonprofit housing developers. [xxx]
  • Require relocation benefits provided by developers to residents displaced by demolition and redevelopment of existing residential units.  For more information visit Home for All.
  • Provide legal assistance to low-income renters facing eviction. The strongest legal assistance policies guarantee a right to counsel for low-income residents facing eviction or displacement through dedicated public funding. [xxxi]
  • Encourage resident-controlled limited-equity ownership in which residents own their units, providing security, wealth creation, and a degree of control and investment. Limited-equity housing can take the form of limited-equity condominiums, limited-equity cooperatives, and community land trust. [xxxii]
  • Provide foreclosure assistance to help homeowners (financially or otherwise) when they are at risk of foreclosure.
  • Implement a rental and eviction registry to enable municipal staff to assess rental market and eviction trends. For a sample of rental registry visit El Cerrito, CA Rental Registry Ordinance.




  • Advance equitable transit oriented development and access to transit as sustainable strategies which can improve overall public health outcomes for people and environmental quality overall.
  • Place housing of all income levels in high-opportunity areas with access to community gardens, parks, quality school, religious institutions, libraries, and health services.
  • Promote equitable Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) by requiring affordable housing, and accessibility to affordable transit:
  • Promote or require GreenTRIP Certification for residential projects to encourage developers to apply strategies that reduce vehicle trips, excessive parking and greenhouse gases.
  • Target existing funding to preserve and create affordable housing along transportation corridors.
  • Create land acquisition or land-banking programs that can enable the early purchase of land around transit facilities or along transit corridors targeted for affordable and mixed-income housing — while this land is still affordable.
  • Incentivize developers to build amenities, which serve the local area and alleviate pressures on local household incomes. These amenities could include subsidized childcare space, childcare fees, and public transit.
  • Place all housing away from sources of pollution and risk areas (flood, fires).


[i] Jobs-Housing Balance refers to the equal distribution of employment opportunities and workforce population across a geographic area. It is usually measured in terms of the proportion of jobs per household. For example, a jobs-housing balance of 1.25 means there are 5 jobs for every 4 households. The aim of jobs-housing balance is to provide local employment opportunities that may reduce commuting distances and/or provide homes near workplaces. Source:
[ii] Jobs-Housing Fit is a newer metric that measures the imbalance between a city’s total number of low-wage workers and the quantity of homes affordable to them. It is based on matching the wage levels of locally-available jobs to the affordability of locally available housing. Measuring “fit” is a step in creating a more accurate picture of the jobs-housing connection and will better prepare jurisdictions for the number of homes needed across the income spectrum.
[iii] The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has been working on a regional inventory of public land near transit. Link to report forthcoming.
[iv] Funding for the trust should be increased. An example of how to do so includes the City of San Francisco, which commits a portion of its hotel tax rev­enues to affordable housing development and is consid­ering dedicating a portion of future property taxes on new homes to affordable housing programs.
[v] In 2017, CA legislature passed AB 1505, the Palmer Fix to allow jurisdictions to once again require inclusionary zoning in rental developments.
​[vi] PolicyLink, “Inclusionary Zoning,” Equitable Development Toolkit, June 2003
[vii] Evelyn Stivers and Vu-Bang Nguyen, “Moving Silicon Valley Forward: Housing, Transit and Traffic at a Crossroad” (Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California & Urban Habitat, 2012).
[viii] Center for Community Innovation, “Displacement Analysis and Policy Tools” (University of California, Berkeley, n.d.).
[ix] Stivers and Nguyen, “Moving Silicon Valley Forward: Housing, Transit and Traffic at a Crossroad.”
[x] Stivers and Nguyen.
[xi] PolicyLink, “Inclusionary Zoning,” All-In Cities Policy Toolkit (blog), accessed January 2, 2018
[xii] Association of Bay Area Governments, “Development Without Displacement: Development with Diversity,” 2009.
[xiii] “Naturally occurring” affordable housing refers to housing without any subsidy and income restriction.
[xiv] PolicyLink, “Affordable Housing Development 101,” Equitable Development Toolkit, April 2008
[xv] PolicyLink.
[xvi] Allison Allbee, Rebecca Johnson, and Jeffrey Lubell, “Preserving, Protecting, and Expanding Affordable Housing: A Policy Toolkit for Public Health” (ChangeLab Solutions, 2015) 
[xvii] PolicyLink, “Expiring Use: Retention of Subsidized Housing,” Equitable Development Toolkit, August 2002
[xvii] Miriam Zuk, “Investment without Displacement: Preserving Existing Affordable Housing” (UC Berkeley), accessed January 4, 2018
[xviii] Allbee, Johnson, and Lubell, “Preserving, Protecting, and Expanding Affordable Housing: A Policy Toolkit for Public Health.”
[xix] California Housing Partnership Corporation, “Preservation of Affordable Homes Near Transit Toolkit,” n.d.
[viii] California Housing Partnership Corporation.
[xx] Allbee, Johnson, and Lubell, “Preserving, Protecting, and Expanding Affordable Housing: A Policy Toolkit for Public Health.”
[xxi] PolicyLink, “Expiring Use: Retention of Subsidized Housing.”
[xi] ChangeLab Solutions, “Preserving, Protecting, and Expanding Affordable Housing: An Overview for Local Health Departments,” 2015.
[xxii] ABAG, “Preservation of Existing Affordable Housing” accessed January 4, 2018
[xxiii] PolicyLink, “Expiring Use: Retention of Subsidized Housing.”
[xxiv] ABAG, “Preservation of Existing Affordable Housing.”
[xxv] PolicyLink, “Code Enforcement,” Equitable Development Toolkit, March 2002
[xxix] PolicyLink, “Just Cause Eviction Controls,” Equitable Development Toolkit, March 2002
[xxx] PolicyLink, “Affordable Housing Development 101.”
[xxxi] PolicyLink, “Legal Assistance to Prevent Evictions,” All-In Cities Policy Toolkit (blog), accessed January 2, 2018,
[xxxii] PolicyLink, “Affordable Housing Development 101.”
[xix] Washington DC,