Our View: Nevada County takes steps in right direction on housing issue
September 15, 2017
Government moves slowly, as it should. But at least it moves.
The latest example of a slow-lane governmental beast is the Nevada County Board of Supervisors' decision to research the possibility of allowing non-occupying homeowners to build accessory dwelling units on their property — something currently forbidden.
That's a fancy way of saying that our county leaders are looking at allowing homeowners to let renters live on their property in a secondary unit when the owners themselves don't live there.
Moving slow, but hey, we're moving and that's important, especially when it comes to housing.
Other changes under consideration include reducing the allowed size of the accessory units, which could make them more affordable; lowering development fees, another method of lowering costs; and prohibiting the units from being used as short-term vacation rentals.
No matter what occurs, at least our leaders have started down a path of bringing affordable housing to this county. Housing is one of our major problems here, with many others branching from it, like from a multi-tentacled monster.
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Not enough affordable housing? Then you don't have a healthy tax base, your school enrollment is shrinking and a significant percentage of your work force can't find a place to live here.
Any of these sound familiar?
Making a change to rules governing accessory dwelling units could provide an economic shot in the arm. More people living here means more folks spending their dollars locally. Our businesses get more cash and our government gets a little more green in the bank.
Having said that, let's place visions of rising county coffers aside for the moment. What this potential change really means is keeping our county healthy. Despite naysayer and NIMBY claims, we need more people here. Younger families moving here, having jobs and putting their kids in our schools are the fruits and vegetables we need to get and stay healthy.
Maintaining a stable of homes that in 2017 has a median sale price of $383,000, and keeping the cost of building new homes outrageously expensive, ensures we won't be taking a healthy approach for our future.
We're not advocating for county leaders to blindly lurch forward and implement everything on the table. County staff must thoroughly inspect all aspects of these recommendations, especially the required size of septic systems at the sites of accessory units. Just one or two extra bedrooms might mean a much larger system is needed. Specifics like this can't be glossed over.
And that's why taking the time to research these ideas is the best road the county could walk down. We need thoughtful deliberation before moving the government behemoth, not a quick jump in any direction just to prove the county is doing something.
Let's be clear, though — the county must do something. Taking no action, enacting no change, isn't an option. Tweaking the rules on accessory dwelling units is just the start. We must continue to take action to improve our laws.
It just takes one step at a time.
The weekly Our View column represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.