You probably know by now that Measure W will bring approximately $1.2 million back to West Marin every year. Those funds will be split evenly between acute local needs for community housing—housing that is affordable based on local wages and salaries—and emergency services. What you may not know is how or why such a fund could actually help create affordable homes. The answer lies in the gap between the housing West Marin needs and the kinds of funding available to help provide it. Measure W would help to fill that gap.
Funding sources for housing are dwindling or going extinct. Under the Trump administration, federal sources of funding for housing are diminished and disappearing. To address the California crisis, many Bay Area jurisdictions have passed bond measures to increase funding. Not Marin.
Although the county is in favor of affordable housing, it has far too little money in its Housing Trust Fund to address needs. In addition, local governments and foundations are pressured to fund projects that create the most units, meaning county dollars are more likely to go to building or purchasing apartment complexes in urban areas than single-family homes in our rural area. West Marin will always be set up for inequity in terms of affordable housing dollars if it does not create its own fund.
That fund that Measure W will create would ensure that we make the most of our unique housing context. An effective strategy in West Marin is to purchase existing homes and then rent or sell them so they are affordable forever. This is the way community land trusts, including CLAM, the Bolinas Community Land Trust and the San Geronimo Valley Affordable Housing Association, operate. With government and philanthropic dollars, we subsidize the homes we buy to keep them affordable in perpetuity. Measure W funds would greatly enhance this process by providing acquisition loans, rehab loans and renter assistance—all of which are near impossible to ensure with the usual streams of funding. With Measure W, we create a source of funding that works here in West Marin.
Whether hot or cold, a high-priced housing market is here to stay, undermining the ability of many locals to retain a stable place to live in. Measure W would create greater sustainability along our rural coast for our hard-working locals and longtime residents. It is a first step in supporting crucial long-term needs in West Marin, and it is an important step in community self-determination.
Kim Thompson is the executive director of the Community Land Trust Association of West Marin. She lives in Inverness.