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Mel & Julie Marshall: Suggestions to ease the affordable housing crisis

So we listened with great interest to the affordable housing meeting held in Nevada City on March 20. My wife and I are presently building our new house (48 percent complete) so we are very aware of the present day cost of building.

The fees that we have and are spending to build this house are quite impressive. Not counting the soft cost of construction (special inspections, biologist, etc.) we are into the county for $30,000 to $40,000. This covers the schools and fire fees as well as the inspections required for this project.

We have a few ideas that we would like to share in the hopes of making it a bit easier for our neighbors to find a place to call home:

Allow year round living in an RV that is parked on one’s property.

This by no means addresses all of the issues, but is only the “low hanging fruit” that can be instituted at little to no cost.

As it stands, we can live in our RV 365 days while we have an open building permit. Once this house is complete we can only stay in the RV for 100 days per year. Why is it OK to live in this type of lodging year round if in a trailer park or with an open permit but not once the house is complete?

This would provide quite a few housing options for folks who are presently living this lifestyle. Hook up the RV to the septic or have a holding tank that is pumped out weekly with one of our many septic pumping contractors.

Offer pre-approved house plans that the county offered a couple of years ago.

We understand that the architect rescinded their approval to allow the government to use these plans. Maybe the county can offer a few pre-engineered/pre-approved house plans for a one, two and three bedroom house. Indemnify the architect for any liability and offer the community some cost savings on building a second unit (or even a primary residence) on their property.

Title 25, alternative owner builder construction. Title 25 was developed with the county and Chamba Lane, local Ridge resident. Title 25 was a very creative program that allowed people to build creative, affordable houses on their property. Through this program, Nevada County now has two fabric yurt homes that have been providing affordable housing for many years now. Please look up Title 25 online and see all of the hard work that many smart people in both the government and public completed. I am not sure why the county ended this program but it seems silly to not revisit this program and benefit from all of the hard work that our elders performed.

Fabric yurts as a house. We presently live in a fabric yurt and find it the very definition of “affordable housing.” During our build we have been allowed to stay in our yurts but once the new house is complete, we are required to remove the yurts from the property. It is interesting that the yurts are viable while we build but not once the house is complete (similar to the RV scenario that was previously mentioned).

We know of two other neighbors who are required to remove their fabric yurts. The county saw their yurts via Google Earth (satellite) when our neighbors opened a building permit for a workshop and when they went into the county to remove a name from the property title. I have asked the county why we cannot have a fabric yurt as a residence but the answer is a moving target with no solid answer provided. Fabric yurts not only are the very definition of affordable housing but they also use a minimum of energy, with a wood stove for heat and swamp cooler for cooling.

Tiny house. We know that a “tiny home” is registered as an RV but they seem to offer a viable option for housing in our community. Much like the year round RV living, hook up the tiny house to the septic and provide many, many units of affordable housing.

Septic system issues. The environmental department will bring up the issue of not allowing an RV or tiny house due to the size of one’s septic system. Maybe that department can open their thoughts to the option of a homeowner providing a compost toilet or a pumped out holding tank. This will also allow one to develop a house on a parcel that cannot pass perc test.

We appreciate all of the hard work that is being done to address this important issue and only wish to assist in our common goal of success. This by no means addresses all of the issues, but is only the “low hanging fruit” that can be instituted at little to no cost. Good luck to all who are putting their energy into this important issue.

Viva Nevada County …

Mel and Julie Marshall live in Nevada City.


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