Our View: Community needs understandable housing ordinances | TheUnion.com

Our View: Community needs understandable housing ordinances

If Jerry Seinfeld were to perform in Nevada County, no doubt his opening line would be: “What is the deal with affordable housing here?”

Wish we knew, Jerry. This issue has plenty of moving parts. Lots of folks want to live here, but there aren’t enough homes and apartments for them and a construction boom likely isn’t around the corner.

Of course, it’s not like our community brims with good paying jobs that require more housing. In fact, there’s a healthy number of county residents who are fine with the way things are and would prefer hoisting the drawbridge in hopes no one else can move here.

The Bungalows, a six-unit housing development in Nevada City, might have served as a small glimmer of hope in our housing abyss. The project developer proposed an “affordable by design” plan instead of a deed restriction for two of the units to ensure affordability.

“Meanwhile we need jobs to get some housing, we need some housing to get the jobs and through it all there’s a constant chant from certain vocal residents of ‘No, no, no.’”

Unfortunately, city staff and council members couldn’t determine if the plan meets an affordable housing ordinance, though they voted 3-to-1 in favor of the project.

Which begs the question: What is the deal with our poorly understood ordinances?

This recent example of governmental floundering is indicative of the larger housing problem this county faces. There’s an ordinance on the books and our elected leaders aren’t sure if they’re obeying it. Add to the problem state regulations that make building homes financially unwise in a county with a ubiquitous group of folks that will appeal anything.

Meanwhile we need jobs to get some housing, we need some housing to get the jobs, and through it all there’s a constant chant from certain vocal residents of “No, no, no.”

We need to change how our government does business. Instead of writing ordinances that create building restrictions, let’s craft rules that encourage development. Give us laws that spur the development we want, that will motivate builders to provide the housing we need.

Let’s focus on the outcome, not the restriction.

Let’s demand our local governments change any faulty ordinances they have into rules that are not only suitable for our community but also work properly.

Let’s push our state leaders toward real reform in building and development law. The status quo for the state is failing us in Nevada County.

And if we can actually achieve some of these goals, and a project is proposed that meets our requirements and would benefit our community, let’s not resort to the knee-jerk reaction we too often use to oppose any change here.

Because, really, what’s the deal with that?

The weekly Our View column represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.

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