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BMR Housing Purchase Program


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BMR Purchasing:  General InformationWisteria

The BMR Housing Purchase Program is part of the Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan. When a development of five or more residential units is built in the City of Palo Alto, the developer is required to offer at least 15% of those units for sale at below market prices. The initial sale price for new BMR units is set by the City of Palo Alto. The buyer selection process is administered by PAHC Housing Services, LLC (PAHC), a private non-profit organization that administers the BMR Housing Program under a contract with the City of Palo Alto. PAHC is an affiliate of the Palo Alto Housing Corporation.

The purpose of the BMR program is to create and retain a stock of affordable housing in Palo Alto for people of low and moderate income. To achieve these goals, special eligibility requirements as well as restrictions on occupancy, rental, and resale of BMR units were established.

Income/Asset/Gift Limits

Only persons whose household income and assets do not exceed specified limits may purchase BMR units. Currently, income limits for resale units are set at 80% or 100% of the Area Median Income (AMI) for Santa Clara County depending on the sale price of the unit. Most BMR resale units are in the $100,000 to $200,000 price range. The income limit for units priced under $150,000 is 80% of AMI. The income limit for units priced over $150,000 is 100% of AMI. Precise AMI income levels are set forth in the attached table.

There is also a limit on the amount of assets BMR buyers can have and on the amount of gift or loan funds they can receive from family or friends to assist them with the purchase of a BMR unit. The asset limit is 50% of the sale price of the BMR unit for households where the applicant is under 62 years of age, and 200% of the sale price for households where the applicant is 62 years or older. Please note, in order to qualify for assets equaling 200% of the sale price of the unit, the applicant must be of 62 years of age or older. Gifts or loans from family or friends are counted as assets and may not exceed 10% of the unit sale price.

The minimum income needed to buy a BMR unit is a function of many factors such as the amount of funds that a buyer has for a down payment, the interest rate on the buyer’s proposed mortgage, the lender’s loan qualification standards and the City of Palo Alto’s rules limiting gift funds. Neither PAHC nor the City of Palo Alto provides financing for the purchase of BMR units.

Waiting List

PAHC maintains a Waiting List of potential BMR purchasers. Persons may add their names to the Waiting List at any time by submitting a Waiting List Application to PAHC and paying a $15.00 sign-up fee. When the application and sign-up fee are received, PAHC notifies the applicant of his or her number on the Waiting List. Numbers are assigned in the order applications are received. Income and other eligibility requirements are not assessed until an applicant is selected to apply to purchase a BMR unit being offered for sale.

The Waiting List is updated once a year in May or June at which time applicants are asked to submit an application update and pay a $15.00 renewal fee. Applicants who fail to do so are dropped from the Waiting List. Waiting List applicants are advised to keep PAHC informed in writing of address changes throughout the year to ensure that they receive information that is mailed to persons on the Waiting List. Since information packets on units that come up for sale are sent only to applicants whose household size qualifies for the size unit being sold, applicants should also keep PAHC advised of any changes in household size. (Two-bedroom units are sold only to households of 2 or more persons, three-bedroom units are sold only to households of 3 or more persons, etc.)


Only persons who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents may purchase BMR units. Also, there is a preference given to persons who live or work in Palo Alto. When a unit is offered for sale, persons who do not meet the live/work preference are ranked below persons who do. Because of the large number of applicants who meet the preference, persons who do not live or work in Palo Alto are unlikely to ever be selected to purchase a BMR unit. (Stanford employees should be aware that only the Medical Center and Shopping Center are located in Palo Alto.)

Buyer Selection

When a BMR unit is available for sale, PAHC sends an information packet to persons at the top of the Waiting List (usually applicants with Waiting List numbers below 200) who live or work in Palo Alto, and who have applied for and qualify for a unit of the size being offered for sale. Information packets are not sent to persons who do not live or work in Palo Alto. The packet includes detailed information about the BMR unit being sold and an invitation to an open house to view the unit. Persons who view the unit and are interested in purchasing it must submit a purchase application to PAHC by a specified deadline. The applicant with the lowest number on the Waiting List who meets the BMR eligibility requirements, including the income criteria for that unit, and obtains a financing commitment from a lender within a reasonable period of time will be authorized by PAHC to purchase the unit.

At this time there are more than 500 persons on the Waiting List and only 246 BMR units in the program, all of which are owner-occupied and come up for resale very infrequently. On average, there are fewer than five re-sales per year and fewer than 30 new units will be added to the program in the next several years. Therefore, persons with Waiting List numbers above #300 can expect to wait five to ten years or more before they get an opportunity to purchase a unit.

If you wish to add your name to the Waiting List, please complete the attached Waiting List Application and return it to PAHC with a check or money order for $15.00 payable to “PAHC Housing Services, LLC.”


BMR units must be owner-occupied and must be the owner’s principal residence. BMR units may not be rented or leased to others without written permission from the City of Palo Alto, which is granted only in circumstances that further the affordable housing goals of the BMR program.


When a BMR owner wishes to sell, the unit must be sold through the BMR Program to another BMR eligible purchaser selected by PAHC from the BMR Housing Purchase Waiting List. The resale price of the unit is established in accordance with a formula that significantly the appreciation of BMR units compared to market rate properties. Most BMR properties appreciate by approximately $1,000 per year. These restrictions are necessary, however, to enable the City to keep BMR units affordable.

For additional information about the Palo Alto BMR Housing Program, including photos of BMR properties, visit our website at

Fair Housing Policy and Reasonable Accommodation Policy

PAHC Housing Services, LLC will not discriminate against any person or persons on any basis prohibited by law.  Please read the Reasonable Accommodation Policy for the City of Palo Alto and PAHC Housing Services, LLC.


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