County says progress made on affordable housing
Nevada County officials insist they are moving forward in implementing the recommendations of the Affordable Housing Task Force.
Of the task force’s 36 recommendations, 12 are slated for inclusion in the county General Plan update, according to a chart provided by Jim Carney, director of county Housing and Community Development.
Some, like a suggestion to pursue state funding, are not really applicable to a General Plan update.
County officials say they have implemented many of the task force’s top 10 recommendations as projects came up, not waiting for them to become part of the General Plan. Activity includes the following:
• County officials said they negotiated an agreement to keep high-density housing in the Olympia Plaza project. Supervisors also approved a zoning change from commercial to residential for a project in Cedar Ridge.
A top 10 recommendation is to allow mixed-use developments by including residential in office-professional, commercial and retail districts. The county and cities should also identify industrial, commercial and retail sites eligible for rezoning to include higher-density multifamily residential use, the recommendation stated.
• Carney said the county gave 50 percent fee waivers and deferrals for three nonprofit, affordable-housing projects: Habitat for Humanity’s Slate Creek project, Eden Ranch and The Courtyards at Penn Valley. The county also loaned money to buy land for the latter, said Supervisor Bruce Conklin.
The task force said the county, cities and other agencies should adopt a policy to allow for deferred payment of fees and full or partial waivers of planning, mitigation and building permit fees as incentives to build affordable housing.
• The county adopted a second-unit pilot program – one of the task force’s top 10 recommendations.
• Carney said the county allowed duplexes to be mixed into the Eden Ranch project. The task force said the county and cities should allow duplexes in residential areas.
• The task force wants senior assisted living to have 20 percent of the units affordable to low-income seniors.
That recommendation has not been adopted yet, but is on the list for the General Plan update. The county has received a $35,000 technical assistance grant to develop low-income, senior-assisted housing.
• Carney said it’s difficult to build an affordable-housing trust fund advocated by the task force because of Proposition 13. Passed in 1978, the proposition limits property tax increases, limits which are often said to put a strain on government finances. The task force suggested the trust fund is a longer-term item, requiring three years or more.
• Supervisor Elizabeth Martin said the county is streamlining its permit process as part of re-engineering the Community Development Agency.
“We do it for everybody, but we definitely do it for affordable-housing programs,” said Martin. The task force wanted priority processing, pre-application meetings and accurate and consistent information for affordable housing.
• Carney, contractors and many others have been talking about affordable housing. The task force recommended educating the public about the need for affordable housing.
• Carney said he has a written proposal for a countywide umbrella housing authority suggested by the task force, but doesn’t have an agreement among all jurisdictions. Truckee has a memorandum of understanding on the county managing its housing projects, said Carney, and Nevada City has expressed interest in the idea.
• The Olympia Plaza agreement and a tax-base-sharing proposal with Grass Valley meet the call for annexation agreements with the cities to enure that multi-family housing remains zoned at the same or higher density when annexed to cities.
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