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Penciling out housing; it’s tough to make the numbers work

Tom Durkin
Special to The Union

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series.

Demand outstrips supply when it comes to rentals for lower-income workers in Nevada County.

This means people who can afford to pay rent are homeless because there are no places to rent.



To combat homelessness, state and federal government invest in what’s called “affordable housing.” The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines “affordable housing” as anything below 80% of local area median income.

The area median in May was $98,400 for a family of four. That means about half the working people make more than that, and the other half makes less, explained Mike Dent, director of housing for Nevada County.



For instance, to qualify for income-restricted housing, “very low income” applicants must make less than 50% of the area median income ($49,200) or “extremely low income” applicants must make less 30% ($29,520), Dent said.

Within specific limits, every affordable housing project has different percentage criteria for setting rents and income limits for tenant applicants.

DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

Inflation and the unexpected influx of high-wage remote workers from Silicon Valley and other metropolitan areas have been two factors driving a 33% uptick in the Nevada County’s median income in the past two years.

This is good news for low-income renters because more of them will qualify for affordable housing.

It’s bad news for home buyers. Even people who could afford to buy a house are being priced out of the market by newcomers paying thousands of dollars more than asking price — and paying in cash.

Realtor.com reports the median sold price of Nevada County homes has risen from $367,000 in January 2020 to $599,000 in April 2022. That’s a 63% increase in just two years.

Health and Human Services Director Ryan commented: “Home prices have increased significantly, but the extent to which it’s driven by remote workers from cities is unknown to me.”

WAITLISTED

Qualifying for affordable housing is no guarantee of actually getting a place to live. Most applicants will find themselves on a waiting list that can stretch out to months or even years.

“It is true that qualifying for affordable housing doesn’t mean there is housing available, which is why we’re working so hard to bring more affordable housing online,” Gruver said.

“I don’t know the specific lengths of the waitlists, but my understanding is that the actual churn on a waitlist means that while you initially may hear that the wait is a year, people in front of you find other options, or units open up and people move through the waitlist quicker than they originally heard.”

But, in the end, he concluded, “There is no doubt that there simply isn’t enough housing.”

Tom Durking is a freelance writer, editor and photographer in Nevada County. He may be contacted at tjdurkin3@gmail.com


Sunseri Associates, Inc. Shawn Edlredge shows off Cashin’s Field units that are still under construction earlier this week. The affordable housing units will be ready by the end of the year in Nevada City.

 


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