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Paso Robles mayor wants SLO County to chip in for the city’s affordable housing

Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin, left, wrote a letter to Supervisor John Peschong asking the county designate property tax money to affordable housing in the city.
Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin, left, wrote a letter to Supervisor John Peschong asking the county designate property tax money to affordable housing in the city.

Paso Robles leaders want the county to kick in funds for affordable housing in the city.

Mayor Steve Martin on Friday sent a letter to Supervisor John Peschong — who represents the North County on the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors — recommending the county designate up to 5 percent of property taxes collected from city residents “to support the development of low-income housing.”

Martin presented the letter to City Council members on Oct. 3, prior to sending it to Peschong.

The money — Martin estimated 5 percent would equal about $300,000 — would only come out of property taxes paid to the county, not funds that go to the city or its school district, he said on Monday.

The funds would come from already existing fees, so no additional taxes would be required, Martin said.

Applicants would apply to the county, which would distribute the money, he said: “We’re not asking the county to write us a check or put the money in our bank account.”

Martin said he’s been working with Paso Robles’ Housing Constraints and Opportunities committee to figure out ways to “move two needles” on market-rate and low-income housing. He said the city has deferred fees and taken other steps to aid development, but “the time has come” to do more.

Paso Robles is one of two cities in the county — along with Grover Beach — that doesn’t have an inclusionary housing ordinance requiring developers to either build affordable units or pay into a fund set aside for such housing.

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When asked if he’d consider such an ordinance, Martin said he’s “certainly open to talking about that.”

Although $300,000 from the county wouldn’t represent a large sum, Martin said affordable housing builders could leverage the money to bring in more funds.

“Every tool they have brings them closer to their goal,” he said.

Martin told other area mayors about his proposal for the county at a monthly mayors’ luncheon, saying they shouldn’t feel pressured to join Paso Robles’ effort.

But, according to Peschong — who said on Tuesday he’d received the letter — the county would be obligated to distribute similar funds to all seven cities.

“If we offer it to them, we have to offer it to all the cities,” he said.

Peschong said he is “obviously looking at” Martin’s proposal and would send a formal reply. But he did not say he would bring it up at a public meeting anytime soon.

He said he’s concerned about potential ramifications that might stem from reallocating tax money that currently funds county services.

“My question is, what services do we cut?” Peschong asked.

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseyholden27

California Gov. Jerry Brown in September signed a package of 15 affordable housing bills that cleared the California Legislature in 2017.

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