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Affordable Housing

We are committed to creating and maintaining housing that is affordable to our workforce and our low and moderate income residents, families and seniors.  The number of affordable housing units in San Rafael is evidence of the our commitment to providing housing opportunities to all income levels.

Information for Below Market Rate (BMR) Owners

Information for Below Market Rate (BMR) Renters

Affordable Housing Programs

Emergency Rental Assistance Program

The Marin County Rental Assistance online application is open! If you already received rental assistance from their program you will need to re-apply. Low-income Marin County residents can apply to receive 80% of unpaid back rent due between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021. Information on income limits can be found on their Tenants: Frequently Asked Questions handout. More information is available at www.MarinCounty.org/RentalAssistance
Questions? Please email RentalAssistance@MarinCounty.org, or call (415) 473-2223.

Below Market Rate Units-General Plan Policy H-19 

One of the our main affordable housing programs continues to be the Below Market Rate or “BMR” program, which is stipulated by General Plan Policy H-19, first adopted in 1986.  General Plan 2020 increased the number of housing developments subject to H-19 and increased the number of affordable units required.  New housing developments are now required to provide between 10%-20% of the total units affordable to very low, low and moderate-income persons.  BMR units are required in both rental and ownership developments.  There are exemptions for 1-4 unit developments and single-family homes under 1,800 square feet.

Ownership Housing Program

The Below Market Rate ownership housing program is administered by Marin Housing Authority with assistance and policy direction from our staff.  Since the inception of the program, over 150 households have been assisted with first time home purchases at affordable prices.  San Rafael has 111 affordable ownership homes.  All of the units have long term Resale Restriction that restrict the sales price to keep the unit affordable to low and moderate income buyers.  Additional information on the affordable ownership housing program including the application and program rules can be found on the Home Ownership page of the Marin Housing site or at (415) 491-2550. 

Ownership Assistance

Many low income households are unable to enjoy the advantages of homeownership due to financial constraints.  These families often pay monthly rent that exceeds the monthly cost for a BMR unit.  Marin Housing Authority ("MHA") has Federal programs to assist low income households with home ownership, including the mortgage credit certificate program.  MHA has been able to provide every eligible BMR buyer with a mortgage credit certificate for over 10 years.  Additional information on these programs can be found on the Home Ownership page of the Marin Housing site or at (415) 491-2550.

Our Housing Inventory

We have ensured long-term affordability in 1,315 housing units.  92% (1,204) of these are rental units and 8% (111) are ownership.  Our affordable units are disbursed throughout the City with 50% in Downtown, 12% in East San Rafael, and 38% in North San Rafael.

Rental Housing Program

Marin Housing Authority administers the BMR rental program.  Thirty properties are required to provide tenant income and rent certifications to Marin Housing Authority annually.  Marin Housing provides annual notification to the property owners regarding the allowable rent levels after HUD publishes the new County median income figures.  More information on the affordable rental program including a list of private apartments with affordable units and the maximum allowable rents for those units can be found in our 2021 Affordable Housing Rent Schedule.

Community Development Block Grants ("CDBG") and HOME

Our staff works with the County Federal Grants division to allocate housing funds in the San Rafael Planning Area pursuant to a cooperative agreement.  CDBG and HOME funds are allocated on a specific funding cycle, with applications due in December for funding in the following July.  Additional information on these programs is available at County of Marin or (415) 499-6695.

Rehabilitation Grants

Low interest loans and grants are available to low income homeowners for rehabilitation and handicapped accessibility improvements.  The program is administered by Marin Housing and is only available to single family homeowners.  The majority of the loans are made to low income seniors.

Housing Support Services 

We do not provide direct housing financial or referral support services. These services are provided by the Marin County Health and Human Services Division, Marin Housing and local non-profit groups.

Staff Involvement in Affordable Housing

We provide predevelopment technical assistance on many of the sites that have major issues or site development costs that can preclude housing development and/or redevelopment.

Check out Marin Housing for more information on the BMR ownership and rental programs, as well as our handout General Affordable Housing Information.

Affordable Housing Requirements for Developers

We require all new developments, residential and non-residential, contribute towards the provision of affordable housing. On February 16, 2021, the City Council adopted an amendment to the Affordable Housing Ordinance 1990 and associated Resolutions 14890 and 14891 amending the affordable housing obligation residential projects. The majority of the requirements are contained in Section 14.16.030 of the Zoning Ordinance of the San Rafael Municipal Code. The Zoning Ordinance can be viewed at Municipal Codes, at the Community Development Department, the City Clerk's Office, or the San Rafael Public Library. Check out our affordable housing requirements.

The major housing site currently available for development is 1203 Lincoln Avenue.

Additional Resources:

Affordable Rental Housing (BMR Program)
Housing Assistance at Marin Housing -(415) 491-2550 (English/Español)
Ecumenical Assn. for Housing EAH -(415) 258-1800

Private Apartments in San Rafael with some BMR units

Affordable Ownership Housing (BMR Program)
Marin Housing -(415) 491-2550 (English/Español)

Federal Housing Assistance (incl. Section 8 vouchers)
Marin Housing -(415) 491-2525 (English/Español)

General Housing Information
County of Marin -(415) 499-6269

Housing Discrimination
Fair Housing of Marin -(415) 457-5025

Housing Habitability
San Rafael Code Enforcement -(415) 485-3097 (English),(415) 485-3445 (Español)

Landlord-Tenant Disputes
San Rafael Tenants Assn. Legal Aid of Marin - (415) 492-0230 (English/Español)

Ownership Rehab Information
Marin Housing -(415) 491-2550 (English/Español)

Section 8 Vouchers
Marin Housing -(415) 491-2525 (English/Español)

Short-term Housing Assistance
211.org -(415) 808-4357  or (800) 273-6222 (24-hours, all languages)

We do not provide direct assistance to individuals or families.  If you are in need of individual assistance, please call the United Way toll-free at 1-800-273-6222 or Marin Housing Assistline at (415) 491-2345.

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