Debate over affordable housing heats up in wealthy Bay Area suburb

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Wednesday, September 28, 2022
Debate over affordable housing heats up in wealthy Bay Area town
Hillsborough wants to fulfill the state's affordable housing requirement with accessory dwelling units - small spaces built on private property.

HILLSBOROUGH, Calif. (KGO) -- Drive along the quiet streets of Hillsborough, and you might never know a battle was brewing.

Thanks to state law, every city and town in California will be soon be required to build a certain number of affordable housing units.

While many places are building several forms of housing, Hillsborough wants to fulfill most of its requirement with accessory dwelling units, or ADUs.

ADUs are typically small spaces built on private property.

"We do not want to put the lives of our citizens at risk for what I would call ill-advised, multi-unit, high-density units," said Hillsborough Mayor Al Royse.

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Royse says the city's hilly landscape and the lack of land available for development make it difficult to build other types of housing.

Royse tells ABC7 News in addition to those concerns, many people in Hillsborough also want to preserve the town's unique character.

That view seemed to be echoed by many who showed up for public comment at a town meeting Monday night.

"Please do not give in to the pressure of having a gun to your head by the state of by activists," said one man present.

But not everybody agrees with Hillsborough's proposal. Some housing advocates say they don't think it'll get approved by state regulators.

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"To my knowledge, no municipality in California as of yet has had a plan that is so overwhelmingly comprised of ADUs approved by the state," said Jordan Grimes.

Grimes is a housing advocate in the peninsula.

He believes, as it stands Hillsborough's proposal does little to address the region's housing crisis, and says most units will probably be difficult to rent out.

"There's no way to ensure their affordability. It really is, unfortunately, just a way to try and skirt those state requirements," Grimes said.

Hillsborough has until Jan. 30 to submit their proposals and make any changes that may be required by the state.

If they fail to meet that deadline, the town runs the risk of facing thousands of dollars worth of fines every day.

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