Greg Zaller: Important news about affordable housing
Last month, the Nevada County Planning Commission made an important decision that could have statewide implications for affordable housing. ABC Channel 10 evening news was there to report on it.
The planning commission’s business that day was to approve a re-writing of the zoning ordinance to comply with state mandates. These rules will lower the barriers to building affordable granny units, now termed Accessory Dwelling Units or ADU.
The planning commission approved the proposed ordinance but also did something that many of us were advocating for there. This was to recommend to the supervisors to drop a restriction that only owners or their immediate relatives who live on the property could be approved to build an ADU. So far the city of Pacific Grove is the only local government in California to drop this restriction, based on the fact that it is unenforceable after the owner moves out. The Nevada County Planning Commission voted to recommend to the supervisors to drop this restriction also because it is unfair and a barrier to building affordable housing.
I have applied for a permit to build an affordable ADU on some property that I own, but will not be allowed to until this restriction is removed. It is a 432-square-foot complete tiny cottage with a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, loft, living room and even a washing machine. The plans will be donated to the building department as a master plan for others to build.
The reasoning behind this restriction on who can build an ADU is based on the incorrect idea that only owners living on their property can be responsible for neighborhood quality. Proper management of rental properties is the way to preserve neighborhood quality, and the idea that only occupying owners can do this is false. Professional managers can do this as well and I support making this a requirement for when the owner doesn’t live on the property. A professionally managed ADU is good for neighborhoods and contributes toward solving critical housing shortages. For a discussion about the benefits of “mixed income housing,” search this term on Wikipedia.
My wife and I have an ADU in our home. The income helps with expenses, and we like the mutually supportive connections we build with our tenants. We are also pleased that we are doing our part to alleviate the housing shortage.
Nevada County has a housing shortage crisis and a homelessness crisis. We can’t solve these problems “by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them,” (Einstein). The planning commission’s recommendation will be a step toward solving these problems if it is approved. It is scheduled to be heard by the Board of Supervisors at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 12 when, hopefully, the supervisors will side with their planning commission.
ADUs are exceptionally inexpensive to build because they utilize existing land and infrastructure, allowing them to be profitably rented at low rates. They contribute to better neighborhoods.
If you are concerned about the lack of affordable housing, this is a time to get involved.
Greg Zaller lives in Nevada City.
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