Bay Area group brainstorming to speed up affordable housing projects

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In Silicon Valley, worry is growing that the lack of affordable housing could make it more difficult to retain or recruit workers. So new ideas have surfaced to try to speed up housing development.

As housing prices soar out of reach for many, brainstorming sessions like continue to try to make affordable housing a reality. The Silicon Valley Leadership Group brought together elected officials and developers.

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State Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco has re-introduced legislation in Sacramento he believes will boost affordable housing projects like ones you see under construction near public transit stations like BART.

"If you're near a high-frequency bus stop, or a ferry station or a job center, you can't limit density," explained Wiener. "You just can't basically prohibit those forms of housing."

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There are discussions with the building trades unions to develop a lower pay scale for the construction of affordable housing projects, which might be an incentive for developers.

"Certainly, having some idea on labor costs and how that will impact future projects is very important to us," Doug McDonald, Chief Operating Officer of SummerHill Housing, said.

However, there's one challenge not easily addressed-- building consensus, especially in smaller cities, for affordable housing.

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"The biggest way to really do it is to rally the community so that they feel engaged and part of the conversation earlier rather than at the end when they start to see shovels breaking ground," said Marico Sayoc, a member of the Los Gatos Town Council.

In Cupertino, a civil suit to oppose that city's use of a state law that allows fast-tracking of an affordable housing project at Vallco is still pending. The case won't go before a judge until August. So even laws meant to streamline approval of affordable housing can lead to delays.

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