Ideas swirl about affordable housing in Nevada City | TheUnion.com

Ideas swirl about affordable housing in Nevada City

Tiny homes at Eugene, Oregon's "Opportunity Village" are designed to provide affordable, transitional housing for the city's homeless population.
Submitted to The Union |

Nevada City took the first step Thursday in its newest effort to create more affordable housing.

Community members gave comments, suggestions and praise to city staff and planning commissioners during a discussion of the city’s proposed “Cottage Dwelling Development Ordinance,” which would regulate the development of small homes, at Thursday’s planning commission meeting.

City Planner Amy Wolfson presented ideas that could be used to draft a formal city ordinance. She suggested a maximum size of 800 square feet for cottage dwelling units to ensure affordability.

The ordinance would also regulate developments with multiple cottage dwelling units. Wolfson suggested a minimum of four units on those developments, which would be required to include a common space area available to residents.

Some suggested the cottages could be used to house elderly, disabled or low-income individuals. Others said they could house members of the county’s homeless population — similar to other “tiny home” developments around the country, such as “Opportunity Village” in Eugene, Oregon, which provides transitional housing to 30-35 homeless people at a time.

“I think our community is ready for this idea, very much so,” said Janice O’Brien, president of Sierra Roots, an organization that helps the county’s chronically homeless population.

O’Brien suggested a cottage development could create a sense of community among its residents, which would be a huge benefit to those struggling to make ends meet.

“It’s really about community more than buildings,” she said. “We all need housing, we all need a home and we all need each other.”

Nancy Baglietto, executive director of Hospitality House, the county’s emergency homeless shelter, said many of her clients are in need of long-term, affordable places to live on order to get back on their feet.

“There is a huge, huge need for this,” Baglietto said.

The Nevada County Department of Health and Human Services has said that “rapid re-housing” is the most effective strategy for helping homeless people get off the street. But many argue a lack of affordable housing is the biggest hurdle to following through on that strategy.

Local architect Chuck Durrett said in an interview he’s repeatedly proposed “tiny home villages” as affordable housing opportunities to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors, but the board has refused to put his proposal on any meeting’s agenda.

“I couldn’t appreciate this more,” Durrett said of Nevada City’s decision to draft an ordinance regulating cottage units. “This is the direction that communities head in when they care about affordable housing.”

Wolfson said the purpose of Thursday’s discussion was to “get the idea out there so we can begin a conversation.”

Planning commissioners suggested a more formal public workshop on the topic at a future meeting. Wolfson agreed, noting that she’d like to have a draft ordinance “more fleshed out before we have everybody take a stab at it.”

Wolfson said she couldn’t provide an exact date for a workshop, but she hopes to schedule it sometime this summer.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.


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