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May 8, 2003

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PALO ALTO – Assemblyman Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) is one step closer to giving cities more incentive to build senior housing. Assembly Bill 218, which changes the way cities can count units to meet the State’s affordable housing requirement, passed out of the Assembly Housing Committee yesterday with near unanimous approval.

Currently, when a city builds 200 units with one kitchen for a multi-unit senior housing facility, it’s counted as a single unit, not 200. “That’s just silly,” said Simitian. “It doesn’t give cities proper credit.” The bill would allow cities to count each unit as a unit, irrespective of the number of kitchens.

City representatives in Simitian’s district have repeatedly criticized existing law as outdated. “We need to change the paradigm of one room-one kitchen,” said Michael King, chairman of the City/County Association of Governments (CCAG) of San Mateo County. “Every older person is not going to live alone.”

Seniors living in multi-unit facilities, sometimes called “congregate housing,” often take their meals together and have no use for individual kitchens. The bill takes into account the way seniors live in senior facilities.

Senior Senator Mattye Fegan Perry of the California Senior Legislature, a sponsor of the bill, said, “AB 218 is a positive step in solving our senior housing shortage. We want to thank Assemblymember Simitian for carrying the bill.”

With an aging population on the Peninsula and in the South Bay, the crunch for senior housing is only expected to worsen. “We can’t afford to ignore this growing demand,” said Simitian. “Cities need more incentive to build senior housing. And seniors need more options in determining where to live as their needs change.”

“This bill will certainly improve the situation in San Carlos and the rest of the Bay Area.” said Tiegel (Inge) Doherty, council member of San Carlos. “It balances out the development of affordable housing to provide for all age groups.”

“It’s very encouraging for us all,” said Mayor Kris Casto of Los Altos, “It will help our seniors stay residents of our community, and it gives us a more accurate picture of our local housing opportunities.”

AB 218 will be heard on the Assembly floor next.