, the city of San Rafael wants a new fire chief and the income for such a position ($152,000) is too low for him to be able to afford a decent, middle-of-the-road house in Marin. So, the city of San Rafael has approved to offer him a special low-interest mortgage loan of $600,000 so that their new fire chief can purchase a $1.2 million house. They have also boosted his salary in a number of ways so that his total take-home pay is $179,200 per year. And the justification? According to the city, it is important for people to live in the community in which they work and to be close to family who are located in the area.
The San Rafael City Council has offered a $600,000 low-interest home loan to the city's new fire chief, Chris Gray. Gray, who started his $152,000-a-year job this week, is in escrow to buy a $1.2 million, four-bedroom home in East San Rafael's Villa Real neighborhood, just west of Loch Lomond Marina. Escrow is set to close in early October.
"We'd like the fire chief to live in San Rafael - homes are expensive in San Rafael," Mayor Al Boro said [in justification].
The council approved the home loan agreement at its meeting Monday.
The council also awarded Nordhoff a $350-per-month raise and an additional $2,000-per-year contribution to his deferred compensation account. Nordhoff's annual salary is now $179,200 per year, plus benefits.
Gray, 50, who was previously the fire chief in Glendale, said a big draw of the job was to be near family in the Bay Area. He said he says it's important to live in the community he serves.
This is wrong on so many levels. Look, one of the complaints people like me make about the affordability crisis
that afflicts Marin, the Bay Area, and much of California is that public servants, like fire chiefs, teachers, etc., cannot afford to buy a decent house in the community they serve. But handing out special mortgages to a few people that we deem as special is not the answer.
I mean, what about the firemen and others who work for this fire chief? Should they all get special loans too? No? Why not? Why don't we insist that this guy make some hellish commute from Sonoma or the East Bay or the central valley like we do with so very many other people who work in Marin? What about you and me? I make about what this guy originally came in making, but I don't see any handouts coming my way? Why aren't we offering a $600,000 mortgage to this
poor, blind, sick Marin resident facing foreclosure or to anyone else facing foreclosure for that matter? Oh, and 'it is important to be near family and to live in the community in which we work
'? (Haven't I been saying the same thing?) Well then, what about all the people who grew up in Marin but who cannot afford to live here, be near their family and loved-ones? Why don't they get special handouts too? Why aren't we telling this new fire chief the same lame story realtors tell other folks -- go buy "the perfect starter home
" which comes in at about 800 sq ft in a crappy part of town as that is about all your income can support?
The hypocrisy of this is almost too much to bear.
Look, despite the fact that we Marinites like to apologize for our ludicrous housing costs and hide behind the belief that we are so very special, the problem is that we are suffering from an affordability crisis
-- a crisis no matter how much the real estate industry tries to redefine
the calculation of affordability and the median sales price. House prices have become unhitched from certain, basic fundamentals such as income. The only healthy way out of this mess is for house prices to fall and fall a lot; not provide designer handouts. The sooner we as a community engage with this the better -- the less of a mess we have to clean up and the less likely someone will come in and force some unpalatable course of action upon us (like affordable housing which we, for some reason, are so vehemently against). What we should be doing is to do everything we can to make sure house prices are congruent with the income of the people who live here and that credit is given out based on proper assessments of risk (and not given out to "anyone with a pulse"). You Mr. Marin House Owner may not like the idea of your house value dropping, but that is exactly what must occur. And besides, if you bought your house to live in, you shouldn't even care.
The Fed, Congress, bailouts galore, and now Marin... moral hazards
define our society it seems.
And why isn't the Marin IJ
questioning this, even a little? There are issues here that even they should see.