City of Pleasanton

PLEASANTON — The city council recently amended a current policy that assists local first-time homebuyers.

In a 4-1 vote, with Vice Mayor Julie Testa voting against the motion, the council agreed on Jan. 19, to add several more employment groups to the city's Down Payment Assistance (DPA) program in an effort to help more residents purchase homes during the pandemic.

The addition will include qualifying employees from the Pleasanton Unified School District, City of Pleasanton, Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department, Alameda County employees and employees of local nonprofit agencies.

“I have some real concerns about it,” said Testa of the final proposal. “I think everyone who is income eligible should have a chance to come forward, so I am uncomfortable with this.”

While Testa expressed concerns about limiting the categories of those who could apply for local funding, the majority of the council wanted to extend the eligibility to frontline workers, but still keep the list short. With only $300,000 in the program’s current coffers — a number that will serve roughly three families with a cap of $100,000 for each family — some councilmembers and staff feared the program would quickly extend beyond a reasonable reach.

Assistant City Manager Brian Dolan stated that the concept of giving preference to local serving workers predated the pandemic and will extend beyond it. He showed support for keeping the list of those who qualify small.

“This term ‘essential workers’ … I don’t think anyone knew what that was 10 or 11 months ago,” Dolan said. “At a certain point, it’s more about who is not included than who is included. I do believe if you include this entire list, it kind of loses its value.”

Other items added to the amendment also included the requirement of a six-month work history with the city and the extension of the loan program to those enrolled in the Below Market Renters (BMR) program. While Testa didn’t agree with the applicant qualifications parameters, everyone agreed to the BMR additions and six-month work history.

On Oct. 20, the city council approved modifications to Pleasanton’s DPA program to increase the maximum loan amount to $100,000, restructure the loan terms, and adopt a shared appreciation loan policy for repayment based on recommendations from the housing commission.

“What we didn’t bring forward at that time (on Oct. 20),” said Dolan, “was a second, smaller part of their recommendations to add some sort of preference program … ”

Qualifications for the loans are currently based on a point system of 21 total markers. Applicants earn points based on various criteria, such as length of residency, single household incomes, consideration for those who work in Pleasanton and those with relatives residing in Pleasanton, to name a few.

The city funded program has helped residents with homeownership since 2003. Currently, there are 50 homeowners with DPA loans; of those 50, 46 residents own BMR units with the remaining four residing in unrestricted market rate homes.

Income eligibility for the program is: one-member household, $100,150; two-member household, $114,450; three-member household, $112,870; and four-member household, $143,050. For more information, visit www.cityofpleasantonca.gov.