Supervisors back Prop. 46 |

Supervisors back Prop. 46

What can be done about affordable housing? That question is asked across the nation and state, and we are no different in Nevada County. We need more affordable housing here, as elsewhere. On Election Day, Nov. 5, Californians will have a chance to do something constructive about affordable housing. That is to vote yes on Proposition 46, the Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act of 2002. The measure will allow the state to sell bonds to provide money to fund housing for working families, seniors and homeless persons in our communities.

Proposition 46 provides $2.1 billion, of which $910 million will be for construction of rental housing for low-income families and seniors; $385 million for emergency shelters and permanent housing with support services for homeless persons, battered women and their children, mentally ill persons and veterans, and code enforcement improvements; $405 million to help working families buy a home; and $200 million for farm workers for rental and ownership housing.

Nevada County is a small county with about the highest housing cost in rural California. Securing the financial resources to address the affordable-housing needs in our community is a formidable challenge. This is because the bulk of state and federal housing money is targeted for large urban areas and rural communities with very high poverty rates.

While Nevada County has lower-income seniors and working people, we do not have a high poverty rate. Fortunately, Proposition 46 provides that at least 15 percent of the funds must address rural housing needs. Because Nevada County has been aggressive in securing housing money, we are in a good position to compete for our fair share of these funds to help our citizens with their housing needs.

For the past decade, the county housing program has brought more than $56 million of state and federal grants, loans and tax credits into our community to address housing and support our local economy. We have provided nearly $1 million of federal funds to directly assist housing projects, such as Habitat for Humanity, Eden Ranch, Courtyards at Penn Valley and other projects. Our housing program has provided $87,000 to pay 50 percent of development fees for nonprofit organizations that have built low-income housing.

The county housing department has secured $32 million in mortgage tax-credit certificates that helped 288 working families become first-time homebuyers. We provided another $5.7 million in downpayment assistance to help another 105 families buy a home who might not have been able otherwise to purchase in this high-cost housing market. Each year, we provide $1.4 million for rental assistance, helping over the past decade 1,171 low-income families find good, stable rental housing. We’ve helped another 77 seniors keep their lower-cost housing by providing Section 8 vouchers at an apartment complex that was threatened with conversion to higher rents.

The county has helped 173 low-income homeowners and renters preserve their affordable homes by securing $3.3 million for housing rehabilitation loans. Another $5 million was used to weatherize nearly 1,500 low-income homes, and we helped 8,600 poor seniors and working families with high energy bills. Annually, the board budgets general funds and other grant revenue to assist nonprofit organizations help homeless people get back on their feet. Most of these affordable-housing programs are provided to citizens who live in our cities, as well as the county areas.

Even with our substantial affordable-housing efforts to date, we know that our housing needs are significant and critical to maintaining our healthy economy and the quality of life we enjoy here in Nevada County. That is why the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously last week to support Proposition 46 because we also know that we need substantially more financial resources to address the housing needs we have in our community.

We all have a role to play in providing affordable housing in Nevada County. The cities and county can continue to bring the financial resources that Proposition 46 will provide to help our nonprofit and construction communities build the affordable housing needed by our low-income seniors, working families and needy single-parents, battered spouses and their children, mentally ill persons and homeless persons.

Now, all of us have an opportunity to actually do something about affordable housing in Nevada County by voting “yes” for Proposition 46.

Peter Van Zant is the District 1 Nevada County supervisor.

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