Our View: No easy answer to housing
It’s not easy to live in Nevada County.
That doesn’t mean amazing people don’t live here. They do. As do kind, helpful, and wonderful people. The kind of folks who volunteer on the weekends. The type of person you hope to meet when you’re down on your luck.
What we mean is, it’s not easy to live — to be in a home or apartment or most anything with four walls and a roof — in this county, while paying your bills and putting food on the table.
The housing problem isn’t new, but like any problem, it ebbs and flows depending on the other issues of the day.
Housing once again took center stage a couple of weeks ago in a webinar titled “Priced Out! Women, Children and Housing.” State and local officials, along with a Habitat for Humanity representative, discussed how people in need, especially women and children, can access safe and affordable housing.
The answer: It ain’t easy.
Online town halls like this are a vital aspect of any solution. They bring a heightened awareness to the problem, and spur the discussion forward.
Our problem seems to be that despite all the talking we do about this issue, we don’t appear to get any closer to an answer.
Nevada County should have around 550 to 600 residences for sale right now. Instead it has around 150.
Talk to any Realtor. The housing market isn’t just tight, it’s stuck solid. People are offering over asking price for a handful of available homes. That only pushes prices up and makes it more difficult for a struggling middle class, much less anyone making less than that, to become homeowners.
So, yes, we are “priced out,” and we need help. The real questions are what form that help could come in, and of those, which are the most realistic.
State Assemblywoman Megan Dahle’s refrain of deregulation has some value, but it’s not a cure-all for what ails us. Onerous building codes, water connections and fees you never knew existed do drive up housing costs. Some of these fees are warranted. Others, not so much. Our state Legislature, and county officials, must take a hard look at what’s truly needed, and what should be scuttled.
Cutting red tape is the easy part of the discussion. What’s really difficult is agreeing on how many homes, and what kind of homes, this county needs to solve its housing problem.
You don’t have to wade to deep into this discussion before hitting the usual roadblocks. Don’t Roseville Grass Valley. We’ve crossed the Bear River, so raise the drawbridge. And the regular refrain of the NIMBY — it’s fine if you build those apartments over there, far from where we live and every place we visit.
Let’s get down to brass tacks: These single mothers talked about during the webinar likely aren’t buying any $500,000 homes. Neither are the people who serve you at the restaurant.
If we’re going to fix, or at least Duct tape, the housing problem, some changes will occur that plenty of people won’t like.
For example, we must give high-density housing a strong look. Not just zone areas for it, but actively lure developers here.
We must have more rental inventory. Not everyone can afford to buy, even if they find an “affordable” home. We need rental apartments in areas close to services, and that means apartments in the same spots as single-family homes.
We should change what types of homes are allowed in certain areas. Find more areas for mobile and manufactured homes. Convert single-family homes into duplexes or apartments. Turn what is currently unacceptable to some into a solution that will keep our community alive for decades to come.
On the other hand, it’s also worth considering tightening some housing rules, like whether short-term rentals, such as Airbnbs, should face more regulation.
Not all of these changes will occur. There will be plenty of pushback. But if this county hopes to maintain its population at a certain amount, instead of wither away over the years, hard decisions must be made.
And no one said that was going to be easy.
The weekly Our View editorial 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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