Pauli Halstead: Housing: We need some!
The Nevada County Board of Supervisors moved homelessness to an “A” category this year, promising solutions.
With a goal of Housing First, the elephant in the room is we have no very low and low-income housing under construction. According to the Nevada County Housing Element, “The total number of new housing units constructed in the County over the prior planning period fell well short of the total projected need, and the number of units rehabilitated were much less than what was expected to be rehabilitated. The lack of new construction in the very low and low-income categories was at least partially attributable to County funding and staffing limitations, as well as a lack of interest from affordable housing developers to propose affordable housing projects in the unincorporated area.”
There is a reason builders are not applying for permits for low-income housing. The County is not offering incentives. They are waiting for someone to apply for a permit first with no guarantee they will work with the builder to reduce costs. This is a backward approach.
What is the Board of Supervisors doing proactively to attract low-income housing developers? Just having a Housing Element in which all the policies are spelled out, but no implementation of those policies, will not solve our housing crisis.
The following are just a few of the policies in the current Nevada County Housing Element.
“The element shall consist of identification and analysis of existing and projected housing needs and a statement of goals, policies, quantified objectives, and scheduled programs for the preservation, improvement and development of housing. The housing program details a five-year schedule of actions the community is undertaking or plans to undertake to achieve housing goals and objectives.”
What actions are the Board of Supervisors taking?
“Policy RC- 8.4.9 was modified so smaller affordable single-family units could be considered for a reduction of development permit fees (previously only multi-family development was included in the policy).”
HD 8.1.11 — The County shall coordinate with the three cities to identify publicly owned surplus land to determine its suitability for low and very low-income households and to develop procedures for land swaps, if sites more suitable for affordable workforce housing are identified. Surplus public lands within Community Regions that are found to be feasible for lower-income housing shall be considered for re-designation to an appropriate residential zoning designation.
HD 8.1.13 — Review the feasibility of developing an Affordable Housing Trust Fund Program to be used for affordable housing development. The Board of Supervisors should initiate discussions about appropriate sources for affordable housing trust funds (such as impact fees, in lieu fees, etc.) and affordable housing incentives.
HD 8.1.14 — Where possible, the County will partner with existing non-profit and for-profit corporations that are interested and able to construct and manage very low and low-income households throughout the County.
HD 8.1.16 — The County will investigate and, where deemed eligible, apply for State and Federal monies for direct support of low-income housing construction and rehabilitation. The Housing and Community Services Department and the Human Services Agency will continue to assess potential funding sources, such as, but not limited to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME, CalHOME, and others.”
RC 8.4.3 — The Department of Housing and Community Services shall work with affordable housing developers, County Departments and other public agencies to help expedite the processing of affordable housing development applications.
RC- 8.4.4 — The County shall request that schools, fire districts, park districts, NID and other special districts adopt a policy to allow for deferred payment and/or partial or full waiver of planning, mitigation, building permit and connection fees as incentives to for-profit and non-profit builders of affordable housing for development of five or more units per application. The Planning Department received responses from all special agencies indicating that they did not desire to reduce their fees.
RC-8.4.8 — The County shall annually review its land use regulations, policies, practices and development review process to determine areas where constraints can be removed on the development of housing for lower income, senior citizen and households with persons with disabilities. Special emphasis shall be placed upon removing constraints on the development, retention, and/or rehabilitation of housing affordable to extremely low-income households.
There’s much more information in the Housing Element, but it’s apparent the Board of Supervisors has work to do to implement the policies put forth, policies which the State of California has mandated by law.
We have been promised solutions to homelessness, not to mention solutions to lack of affordable rentals for our work force. It’s high time to be proactive.
Pauli Halstead lives in Nevada City.
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