Affordable Housing in Silicon Valley
In a recent edition of the San Jose Mercury News, Leadership Group board member and Intersil CEO Dave Bell and Ryan Avent, economics correspondent for The Economist sounded off in an Op-Ed on the growing problem of soaring housing costs in the region and the effects it has on the Valley’s economic competitiveness. They wrote, “The more workers are deflected elsewhere by housing costs, the greater the odds that other centers of innovation will attain the critical mass and provide competition, perhaps fatal, to the Bay Area’s tech primacy. Silicon Valley cities need to enthusiastically plan for, approve and build more homes to keep housing prices in check.” (Mercury News article)
This thought is underscored each year in the Leadership Group’s annual CEO Survey. Housing costs are consistently ranked as the No. 1 or No. 2 top impediment to doing business in Silicon Valley. Join the Leadership Group’s Affordable Housing Tour on Saturday, May 26, to learn more.
The recent state policy decision to eliminate redevelopment agencies has compounded the problem. One of the primary benefits of redevelopment agencies was the requirement that 20 percent of redevelopment agency revenues fund affordable housing. It was in part due to this source of funding that the Leadership Group was able to launch the Housing Trust Fund in Santa Clara County in 2000, which has helped more than 9,500 families and individuals purchase homes. The elimination of redevelopment and the reallocation of property taxes to schools, counties and special taxing districts mean that those funds are gone forever.
Fortunately, a bill has been introduced that would create a new source of funding for affordable homes. SB1220 (DeSaulnier) would put in place a $75 document recording fee on real estate transactions. This modest fee has long been supported by the Leadership Group. The bill recently passed out of Senate Transportation and Housing Committee and is currently in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Leadership Group will continue to advocate heavily for its passage.
The Leadership Group will address one of the corollary problems associated with the construction of more homes – community opposition – during its Affordable Housing Tour. The Tour will take policy makers, planners and community leaders to see, firsthand, a variety of housing developments. All who attend these tours walk away better informed and less inclined toward a knee jerk “no” reaction to well built and designed, appropriately located homes for those who work in our companies at all levels.
If you would like to join us for this year’s Affordable Housing Tour, contact Bena Chang.
Controlling health care costs
For many employers, the continually rising costs associated with health care benefits are unsustainable. For instance, in California health costs have more than doubled in the last decade. Given that 75 percent of the $2.5 trillion we spend annually on health care is attributable to preventable chronic diseases, companies are increasingly investing in wellness and prevention benefits to lower costs and simultaneously improve employee morale and productivity. The Leadership Group will build on these efforts on June 6 at our “Health Happens Here in the Workplace” employer wellness conference.
On the policy front, employers must give input to lawmakers to help ensure that cost controls are put in place through:
- A competitive marketplace for insurers to compete for business.
- Transparency to enable purchasers to understand the value and quality of what they are buying.
- Delivery care reform to give insurers, consumers and providers the financial incentives to increase quality and prudently use/provide services.
Significant aspects of the new federal health care law will take effect in 2014. It is essential for employers to get involved and help policy makers establish reasonable regulations and time frames to comply with the complicated requirements. The California Health Benefits Exchange, a competitive marketplace that will empower individuals and small businesses to choose the health plan and providers that give them the best value, is critical. If successful, it will be replicated across the country. The California Health Benefit Exchange board needs business community input to ensure the exchange will control costs, be user friendly and meet their needs.
Currently, many companies are finding it difficult to understand how the new health care law will affect them and how they might be able to benefit. Luckily, The California Endowment, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and other regional business associations developed a simple, easy to navigate website to address these needs: http://www.healthlawguideforbusiness.org.
Interested in joining the discussion? Join us on June 6, for “Health Happens Here in the Workplace”, an employer wellness conference to learn best practices from industry leaders such as Kaiser Permanente, J&J, and Brocade, as well as tactics to increase employee participation in wellness programs. We’ll also discuss a new initiative, “Let’s Move Businesses” designed to help employers create wellness benefits and programs that include children and families, part of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative to reduce childhood obesity.
For more information or to learn how to get more involved, please contact Senior Director of Health Care and Federal Issues, Emily Lam.