REGIONAL — Low-income renters are being driven out of the Tri-Valley annually, because they regularly are outbid by their wealthier neighbors, the high-salaried tech workers with backgrounds in the STEM subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

It’s not a new phenomenon, but the actual process has been obscured over the years by the formula used for coming up with  Below Market Rate (BMR) rent subsidies.

For example, over the past three years, the permissible ceiling on subsidized Below Market Rate (BMR) rentals rose by 19%.  Some 2% of that was interest compounded over the three years.

Seniors over the same three years got a total raise of 4% in their Social Security income, in effect putting them a net 15% behind where they had been in their earlier personal budgets. In years before that, the national economy was rebounding from the Wall Street crash of 2008-09, and that affected even well-off people and did not drive up median income in the county, so there were no rent ceiling increases.

Seniors already know their Social Security payment will go up by 1.3% in 2021.   A new percentage for any rent increase that might occur has not been announced yet by HUD for 2021.

The 19% increase over the past three years came from a formula which allowed participating landlords to use those caps as their rent ceilings. The commitment is usually for several decades, as outlined by the original agreement.

But what people usually don’t visualize is that the money is spread around many households in the county and Valley that include plenty of discretionary income in many households.  Such households can cut back on relatively marginal purchases, such as wines, dining out, travel, or hobbies, and still afford higher rent or house payments.  In effect, they bid up the price of housing, and leave seniors and others who are scraping by, with new problems if they want to remain in the Valley and Alameda County.

Some of those people leave for the Central Valley, though that would seem to be a poor location for seniors. Less local transposition is available there for people who can’t afford to own cars, or don’t want to risk driving in old age. Seniors’ cardiac problems can get worse in the Central Valley, because of its higher temperatures and polluted air basins that have become the worst in the nation.

Many seniors move to other states, where rents are cheaper. But there is hazardous weather in some states, including flooding and hurricanes in the South and East. In the  North, sub-zero temperatures and icy sidewalks pose threats.

Seniors and others also risk not being able to transfer their medical coverage, because of the lawsuits that President Trump has filed against the Affordable Care Act, despite polls that show majority support in both major parties to cover such things as pre-existing conditions.

Renters do catch something of a break in a state law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2019. AB 1482 caps rent increases at 5% annually, and expires in 2030, but it doesn’t remove the inflation factor of the people who are able to drive up the rental costs.

The vacancy rate is very low on BMR housing, said Steve Hernandez, Pleasanton’s housing manager. While he only manages city housing — not private BMR — he estimated Pleasanton’s affordable housing availability is “well below 5%.”

The city council has not approved any new rental developments.

Pleasanton has an inclusionary zoning ordinance; the council approve builders’ intentions. by the council. In-lieu fees a developer pays to the city in place of building low-income housing goes into the city’s Lower Income Housing Fund (LIHF).

In Dublin a look at the city’s performance so far in building affordable housing has fallen far short of goals set in 2015. Every city has an eight-year time window to meeting the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) goals.

The goals for Dublin are to build 796 very low income units, 446 low income, 425 moderate income and 618 above moderate income by 2023.

From 2015 through 2019, the city saw 26 built in the very low income bracket, 39 in the low income, 39 in moderate, and 3,641 in above moderate.

Dublin’s affordable housing plans for the future include between 70 and 114 units downtown at 6541 Regional Street for seniors and/or residents with special needs, with nonprofit Eden Housing as the developer.

Another project is sited near Dublin’s West Side BART station, with 152 affordable units out of 334 total units. The main floor will have retail commercial uses. BRIDGE Housing will be the developer.

A development for up to 195 affordable units is zoned for land  is located at the Iron Horse Parkway near Martinelli Way and Campus Drive near the East Dublin BART station. However, there is no developer for it yet.

The Independent also sought comment from Livermore on its plans, but the city’s housing director, Eric Uranga, did not respond to email or phone calls in time for press deadline.

The Livermore council on Dec. 7 approved a plan for 130 units of affordable rental housing in the downtown center with developer Eden Housing.

Cheaper affordable housing may be obtained through the HUD section 8 program. People Generally, very low income qualify for it. HUD deducts medical costs from the qualifying amount, then charges tenants on a low income scale. The Livermore Housing Authority and the Housing Authority of Alameda County (HACA) have Section 8 units when available.