The San Benito County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 23 approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the City of Hollister to establish the position of the City of Hollister Housing Programs Manager. Under the MOU, the city and county would have equal say in determining the responsibilities of the office, recruiting, selecting and hiring the individual, as well as determining the job description. The city would be reimbursed for the costs related to the employment of the person selected.

Brent Barnes, the county’s Resource Management Agency director, announced the MOU as a “good-news story,” and how discussions had been ongoing for some time on creating the shared position of housing programs coordinator.

“The city actually stepped up and sent us a job description and a draft agreement that the city council went ahead and approved last week,” Barnes said. “The bottom line is that they’re willing to hire and share with us a full-time housing programs coordinator. Our portion of that would pay half of the base salary and half of the travel to and from training workshops, but not the workshops, themselves.”

The city would be paying all benefits, Barnes added, saying it was a good deal and that both would be getting a lot of bang for the buck.

According to the background information for the MOU, prior to 2010, Hollister and the county shared a housing programs coordinator who was responsible for coordinating implementation of grants and affordable housing programs. The recession caused the elimination of the position. Now, with the economic recovery, the county and city feels it is important, for several reasons, to reestablish the shared position:

  •  Adoption of the 2035 General Plan and the Housing Element update establish a strong affordable housing policy and program framework that needs to be implemented
  •  Potential adoption of a housing impact fee requires close monitoring of funds and direction of fund balances to appropriate activities
  • Planning and implementation of a range of affordable housing projects in the County requires close cooperation with individual developers
  • Similar policies, programs and activities in the City of Hollister require a high level of coordination so that affordable housing is built in context with the larger community

The person would be a city employee. The salary in the first year would be $48,000, with the county paying half of the base salary.

Supervisor Margie Barrios wanted to clarify that the county would participate in the hiring process. Barnes told her that was true. Supervisor Anthony Botelho said he had been pushing for the shared position ever since the recovery began.

“We had this partnership before with the City of Hollister,” he said. “They need it as bad as we need it. We ought to be doing more collaborative efforts as far as addressing the affordable housing issue in our small community.”

Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz asked if San Juan Bautista wanted to “join in.” Botelho joked, “If you can get a nickel out of them.”

Barnes answered, “They’re part of the community,” and told Robert Rivas, board chairman, that he possibly “messed up” the budget augmentation and he may have to come back to the board with a budget transfer to pay for the position.

Botelho said everyone is concerned about the availability of affordable housing for all segments of the community. Ray Espinosa, the county’s chief administrative officer, said he had met with Hollister City Manager Bill Avera to discuss the shared position.

“He took the bull by the horns and moved forward with this,” Espinosa said. “I asked him to speak with Brent and to work with him on this. The city took the initiative, and I appreciate it.”

With no public comments, the board voted unanimously to approve the MOU.

John Chadwell worked as a feature, news and investigative reporter for BenitoLink on a freelance basis for seven years, leaving the role in Sept. 2023. Chadwell first entered the U.S. Navy right out of...