West Marin Needs More Affordable Housing That Working People Can Afford
It’s no secret—local housing that is affordable for people who work in West Marin is scarce. Firefighters, medical professionals, teachers, and many others travel from Petaluma, San Rafael, and beyond to do their jobs here. Many others whose work sustains our community—shopkeepers, restaurant workers, and many more—have managed to find local housing but spend far more than they should—some more than half their income—to live near their work.
CLAM—the Community Land Trust Association of West Marin—believes that affordable housing is key to preserving the high quality and lively character of West Marin. We need firefighters nearby to fight local blazes and medical staff close at hand when a heart fails or a child falls. We need teachers who know our students, caregivers for our elders, volunteers for our organizations, health care workers, housekeepers, carpenters, farmers, landscapers, artists, and senior citizens—the diverse residents who make up a resilient, caring and dynamic community.
By providing local homes that are affordable for working people, we also reduce the environmental pollution and extra expense of long-distance commutes.
By “affordable housing” we mean housing that people can pay for while still being able to buy food and other necessities. Average rents in West Marin make that nearly impossible. As a result, every year our community loses long-time members. And younger people who want to make their lives here are discouraged from doing so.
CLAM – Housing Now and Forever
Established in 2001 as a nonprofit, community-based organization, CLAM works to expand affordable homes, one by one, in an environmentally sensitive manner, in the areas surrounding Tomales Bay—Point Reyes, Inverness, Olema, Marshall, and Tomales.
As a community land trust, CLAM can acquire land and property through donation or purchase, ensuring that the housing on it remains permanently affordable. Because CLAM owns the land, the housing can be rented or sold at below-market rates. A resale agreement ensures that the housing stays affordable for future generations.
Residents in CLAM-owned housing reflect CLAM’s strong commitment to a diverse population in West Marin. Selection criteria include economic necessity, the ability to pay the rent or mortgage, employment in the area, and contribution to the community.
From Vision to Reality
CLAM acquired its first property, a three-bedroom home in Inverness Park, in 2005 and converted it into two affordable rental units occupied by local families. Since then, CLAM has acquired and renovated a home in Point Reyes Station and constructed a second unit on the property, the first new-construction house built in California to highly energy-efficient Passive House standards. Then, in 2010, CLAM acquired a four-unit apartment building in Point Reyes Station.
As of December, 2010, CLAM owned eight affordable homes and had facilitated a tenants-in-common purchase for two others, creating 10 affordable homes in 10 years!
These purchases and remodeling projects were funded by local donations, a low-interest loan from Marin Community Foundation, and grants from Marin County and other funders. Many in the community, including CLAM’s membership of more than 200 people, have contributed time, expertise, and substantial financial support to create these homes.
With your help, these first success stories will be just the beginning of housing that contributes to the high quality and sustainability of Tomales Bay-area communities.
While CLAM seeks additional existing housing that can become affordable homes, it also advocates for appropriate modifications of development regulations that would allow more affordable housing to be created.