By Lisa Schliff
[The following is the first in a series of articles that will focus on local issues and concerns.]
The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.
—President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Affordable housing in Nevada County: these days it’s an oxymoron. You just can’t find it. The impact upon low and moderate income residents here is considerable. In fact, Brendan Phillips, our new County Housing Resources Manager, has his own story to tell. He is having difficulty finding an affordable two-bedroom house to move into with his family so that his daughter will have her own bedroom.
But there are worse-case scenarios than this. People can’t take jobs that they are offered in this area because they can’t find affordable housing. Residents living here can’t afford housing based on their income. More than 50% of the residents living here pay 30% of their income for rent. At that percentage, it would only take one major medical emergency or other crisis that generates high bills to put those folks on the street. Our community runs the risk of more homelessness unless this issue is addressed. Housing affordability impacts the quality of life in the community more than anything else, Phillips claims. The root cause of homelessness is lack of housing affordability, although other factors come into play. It defies imagination that some of our fellow citizens are spending this snowy, rainy winter and early spring outside or in leaky tents. Yet that is the case in Nevada County.
According to Phillips, we need 300 units of low or very low-income housing by 2019, and 450 units of moderate or above-moderate housing to address housing needs in Nevada County. These numbers come from a report entitled “Housing Element”, required by the State of California. The Republican-backed Federal Tax Reform Bill changes low income credits, making it more difficult for low-housing development to move forward. The present administration has pulled the rug out from under housing development funds, forcing the states to make it up.
Fortunately, according to housing experts speaking at a Town Hall Forum broadcast via KVMR Radio earlier this week, there are solutions. Thanks to progressive action, two housing bills were passed in 2017 to address housing problems in California: Senate Bills 2 and 3. which provide much-needed funding for housing development. In addition, there are innovative, creative solutions on the horizon, and here in Nevada County there is no lack of resourceful and creative people. Tiny house villages such as the one in Eugene, Oregon could offer one option. The City of American Canyon donated land for 70 units to Napa County, setting an example for other cities. Locally, No Place Like Home brings funding for projects that aid homeless folks with housing and treatment for mental illness here in Nevada County.
How can we as Democrats support affordable housing efforts? At the state level, we can contact our State Assemblyman Brian Dahle (R-D1) and State Senator Ted Gaines (R-D1) to make them aware of our support for the housing bills and to urge them to vote for continued funding. Although they both voted against SB 2 and 3, as our elected officials they need to hear from all of us.
At the local level, you can participate with or donate to A Place Called Home, Hospitality House, and other Nevada County organizations that are making the futures of our poverty-stricken residents a lot more hopeful.