County takes steps to reduce barriers, encourage diverse communities
If a community has a genuine desire to foster tolerance, openness and fairness, it can achieve it by encouraging diversity across all demographic lines. At the County of Marin, equity programs have been emphasized and prioritized, including in the area of fair housing.
During National Fair Housing Month and beyond, County staff is taking meaningful action to combat discrimination, overcome patterns of segregation, and foster inclusive communities free from barriers that restrict access to opportunities for groups protected from discrimination by law.
The Marin County Board of Supervisors acknowledged Fair Housing Month during its April 16 meeting with a proclamation that read, in part, “that economic progress and competitiveness is best served by promoting diverse, inclusive communities with equal access to good jobs, schools, health care, transportation, and housing.”
The Marin County Community Development Agency (CDA) is the lead grant recipient for federal grants related to local housing. The grants often come in the form of Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) funds that support affordable housing programs and services for the most vulnerable residents in our communities. Over the past five years, the County has received more than $7.5 million in CDBG and HOME grants from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Towns, cities and counties that benefit from those federal grants are expected to contribute to those fair housing efforts.
The County has taken significant steps to reduce barriers to fair housing. Last year, the Supervisors approved an ordinance that requires just cause for eviction. Just cause means the landlord must demonstrate that an eviction or lease termination is justified, for example, non-payment or habitual lateness of rent, creating a nuisance, demolishing property or other breaches of a rental agreement.
County officials have hosted public discussions about how racism framed housing policies both locally and across the nation. Despite the 1968 signing of the Fair Housing Act into law, Marin continues to have many neighborhoods are segregated, including many communities that are more than 90 percent white/non-Hispanic.
Marin is one of the most expensive places to live in the United States, and the lack of affordable housing choices has been labeled as a local crisis by many elected officials and stakeholders. The median price of a single-family home in Marin is about $1.1 million, and the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment is more than $3,100.
But it’s not just unaffordability that creates a barrier for many working-class families and people of color. CDA staff has illustrated how institutionalized racism dating back decades shaped neighborhoods in Marin and excluded African Americans and other people of color from purchasing homes. Even the Federal Housing Administration’s underwriting manual from 1936 said it was necessary that properties should be occupied by people of the same social and racial classes to “retain stability” and prevent “a reduction in values.” In a process called redlining, neighborhoods where African Americans lived were systematically denied various services and financial investment. Redlined zones from the 1940s show that the same areas that were denied economic opportunities in the past, continue to be concentrated areas of poverty today.
Beginning in 2016, CDA staff created a community advisory group and a steering committee to encourage community engagement to help develop recommendations to County officials that address barriers to fair housing choice. The advisory group and steering committee became familiar with fair housing laws and the effects of racism and gentrification in African-American and other communities of color, and members shared personal insights with CDA staff. The groups’ top recommendations were to pursue the just cause for eviction ordinance, support a housing oversight committee to help identify solutions to local affordable housing crisis, and continue with a robust community engagement process.
In addition to the just cause ordinance, the County has created source-of-income protections for tenants, encouraged the creation of junior accessory dwelling units, started a landlord partnership program, enhanced its multifamily housing inspection program, and advocated for ways to expedite the permit process for new affordable housing.
Learn more on the County’s fair housing webpage or through the Marin Housing Authority.