Affordable housing scheme for NC is lacking |

Affordable housing scheme for NC is lacking

If Nevada City really wants to create more affordable housing, it will need to put a lot more thought into that worthwhile effort than its Planning Commission displayed in a recent decision involving a proposed condominium project.

Bill and Stevie Sheatsley want to turn their motel bungalows on Nevada Street into condominiums. To meet the city planning commission’s affordable housing rules, they have agreed to sell two cottages at below market rates – something in the $150,000 range as it currently stands. The couple, who plan to convert three more cottages and build another two, agreed to the restriction.

On the surface, that all sounds wonderful. But upon closer review, we can’t help but notice the leaks.

For example:

What’s stopping someone who can afford a more expensive home from snapping up a government-mandated “bargain basement” condo? While the city can certainly determine how much the Sheatsleys can sell their condos for, it doesn’t seem they’ll be able to determine whom they sell them to.

Living in San Francisco and looking for a little weekend getaway? We’ve got a deal for you, courtesy of Nevada City government.

Nor will the city be able to determine how much that eventual buyer will be able to sell his government-mandated bargain basement condo for down the road. In two years, the two condos could be worth $200,000 each or more. Especially if they could have fetched a lot more than the buyer paid for them had the Sheatsleys been able to sell the condos on the open market today.

Unless, of course, it is the city’s intent to eventually cap all property transactions.

To paraphrase Planning Commissioner Harry Stewart, city officials are kidding themselves if they think the sales restrictions will provide truly affordable housing.

It seems the Planning Commission could have put more thought into this decision. It appears commissioners – at least the majority of them – simply made a decision and then asked staff to work out the details.

That’s the kind of “ready, fire, aim” approach to government that gets government in trouble. Especially when it comes to decisions regarding someone’s private property. It seems Nevada City government is making decisions and rules “on the fly” as it looks to create more affordable housing, and that’s asking for trouble.

Most folks don’t mind playing by the rules. They just want to know that the rules aren’t being changed in the middle of the game.

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