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  1. TopTop #1
    Peacetown Jonathan's Avatar
    Investigative Reporter

    New Sonoma County Attainable Housing Solution for 15,000 under $900 rentals + 10,000 homes

    The Sonoma Independent Solution just published a bold new Attainable Housing Coalition solution that calls for rezoning 1% of the County to allow 15,000 rentals for under $900 and 10,000 homes costing under $200,000, without any use of taxpayer money. You can read the full proposal on the Sonoma Independent here, and sign the petition to urge our Supervisors to help make this happen here.

    HERE's the NUTSHELL:



    For tens of thousands of citizens of Sonoma County being evicted from their homes or worried about rising costs, the shortage of attainably priced housing for moderate income people has become the most urgent crisis in the County. Every political candidate and elected representative speaks of the need to address our housing crisis, but nobody in County or local government has developed a plan capable of adding more attainably priced housing units than are being lost due to a rising market.

    As a result—and in the absence of an Attainable Housing Solution like the one being proposed below by the politically independent grassroots Sonoma County Attainable Housing Coalition and the SonomaIndependent.org—the current housing crisis will worsen.

    Without a bold solution to this crisis, the only new rentals coming available, and the only new homes available for purchase, will remain affordable to only the wealthy.


    Thousands, or even tens of thousands of our neighbors, as well as farm laborers for the County’s phenomenal agriculture, and other moderate income workers, will continue to be priced out of our communities. Children who have grown up here will be unable to live as adults near their families, and many senior renters, our must vulnerable residents, will be forced from the community they have lived in for decades or have chosen for their retirement. They will be priced out by escalating costs and replaced by newcomers who can afford skyrocketing rents, or the million-plus dollar homesteads, which are, effectively, the only type of new housing that the County’s existing zoning and permit laws allow to be built.

    The Sonoma County Attainable Housing Solution is a three-prong solution that would allow (at zero cost to taxpayers) the creation, during the next 15 years, of 15,000 new small homes rent controlled at under $900 per unit, as well as 10,000 small environmentally friendly homes in non-profit housing clusters, cost-controlled to under $200,000. It would bring $10 million to $15 million annually in new tax revenue for the County, and provide more than $100 million in additional income for middle-class landowners.

    This solution could be implemented this year by a simple vote of a majority of our County Supervisors, along with a modest adjustment to the upcoming Community Separator extension that is up for voter renewal this year.

    If implemented, this Solution could create 25,000 new rent and cost-controlled units of housing to house 30,000 people who will otherwise be forced to leave Sonoma County, or not be able to move here, because of the skyrocketing cost of housing.

    An April 24 column in the Press Democrat by syndicated Bloomberg columnist Justin Fox titled, Why housing is too expensive, concluded, “I can’t help but think that this is a case where we may need both less government (in the form of a rollback of zoning and other housing regulations) and more government (in the form of housing subsidies for the poor).”

    Sonoma County’s Supervisors are taking necessary measures to find and fund solutions for the County’s homeless, whose numbers have decreased by 23% since 2013. What they have not done, and what needs to happen now, is a zoning and permitting rollback that is focused, with laser-like precision, on creating thousands of units of attainably priced, new housing.

    The Sonoma Independent Solution allows the marketplace to create an unprecedented boom in attainably priced housing by reducing expensive regulations on auxiliary dwelling units, and by re-zoning a tiny percentage of private land in the County solely for the creation of attainably priced housing, so that small landowners will be empowered to use the free market to address the County’s housing crisis.

    For a variety of reasons—from density issues to accessibility to a lower carbon footprint—some of these attainably priced homes would be located near cities. With that in mind, our Solution requires amending the upcoming Community Separator initiative that will be on the November 2016 ballot to allow some of this attainably priced cost-controlled housing to be placed on up to 5% of the land covered by the law.

    The Sonoma Independent Attainable Housing Solution would provide the capability for middle-class landowners to either sell currently unsaleable small parcels of land for non-profit housing communities of inexpensive small homes, or to become middle-class landlords of rent stabilized small house tenants, while generating millions of dollars in new tax revenue for Sonoma County.

    Our Solution has built strong safeguards to ensure that for-profit developers will never be able to take advantage of these zoning adjustments for housing that is not attainably priced. All of the rental units will be controlled so that they can never be rentable for more than $900, plus increases pegged to the local rate of inflation. Those built as part of non-profit Community Land Trusts could never be rented for profit, or sold for more than $200,000 (plus the rate of inflation).


    In addition, all the new homes created would be environmentally friendly and conscious of their neighbors. There would be no more than two housing communities of no more than 20 small homes per square mile. Most of the new modest, small-home communities would have solar panels to be net generators of energy, and would contain organic gardens to sustain our local food supply. All the new communities would be forbidden from using pesticides, Roundup, herbicides, or GMO seed. They would also not be able to build asphalt roads, or to grow commercial grapes or cannabis.

    The Sonoma Independent and the Sonoma County Attainable Housing Coalition believes this solution provides a historic opportunity to reverse the current trend of new housing affordable only for the wealthy, and build 25,000 new units of attainably priced small homes, with zero use of taxpayer dollars.

    We are asking those who would like to see our County Supervisors and officials support this proposal to sign and share our petition (on the upper right section of this page), which the Attainable Housing Coalition will be presenting to the Supervisors in late May. As an independent non-profit media organization run by volunteer editors and writers, we also welcome your tax-deductible contributions, which can be made from our donate page here, to help publicize this solution.

    The Sonoma Independent Attainable Housing Solution is comprised of three parts:

    I. Zoning and code variance for auxiliary dwelling units (“ADU’s”), likes tiny homes, garage conversions and mobile units, to be rent controlled at under $900 per month.

    II. A zoning and code variance for small green Community Land Trust clusters of homes selling for under $200,000 per unit on 5% of the 17,000 acres of privately land around Sonoma County’s cities currently restricted by the Community Separator law

    III. A zoning and code variance for small green Community Land Trust clusters of homes selling for under $200,000 per unit on 1% of 400,000 acres of privately owned Sonoma County land currently zoned as rural residential or agricultural.

    To continue reading the details of each of our full plan, click here.

    To sign our petition, click here
    Last edited by Barry; 04-30-2016 at 02:17 PM.
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  3. TopTop #2
    tommy's Avatar
    tommy
    Supporting member

    Re: New Sonoma County Attainable Housing Solution for 15,000 under $900 rentals + 10,000 h

    I read this visionary proposal. I like the concept, of new affordable units. For me,the devil is in these details:
    • The proposal would require agreement and cooperation of many people, each with their own self interest. I doubt you'd be able to get them all to work together on this.
    • Your idea of rent controlled units under $900, or cost controlled cluster housing for under $200k is questionable. For myself, as a landlord, with an eye for economics, rent control is a mixed bag, with as many opposed as in favor. It provides affordable housing for a few, who live in their low priced units forever, creating a shortage, and higher prices for everyone else. Housing is a market - for landlords, tenants, buyers and sellers. There are always unforeseen consequences when the govt regulates the market - people are devious & act in their own self interest.
    • It would be a challenge amending the Community Separator Law, to permit housing in rural or agricultural areas. I'd be surprised if supporters of the Community Separator Law would agree to allow housing on rural and agricultural land. One of the reasons Sonoma county is so beautiful, is that zoning does not allow the breakup of large parcels.
    • Your stm "... million-plus dollar homesteads, which are, effectively, the only type of new housijng that the County's existing zoning and permit laws allow to be built"... is false. There's all kinds on construction going on around the County of low or moderately priced housing.
    • The roots of the "housing crisis" go into our way of life. America is more about money than democracy. People are rewarded according to the value they create. The guy designing chips in Silicone Valley is creating more value than his bro flipping burgers. The chip guy can afford much better housing than his burger bro. To target someone who can buy a million dollar weekend home in Sonoma County, and try to manipulate the market to create housing for his burger bro may be visionary, kind and compassionate, but it's not the reality of our economy. You may complain about the lack of affordable housing, but what about the incredible things created in our economy, in science, technology, the arts, and opportunity. It's clearly not available for everyone. But our economy is fundamental to our way of life, as real as the sky is blue. It's called a "Free market economy".

    Quote Peacetown Jonathan wrote: View Post
    ...
    The Sonoma Independent Attainable Housing Solution is comprised of three parts:

    I. Zoning and code variance for auxiliary dwelling units (“ADU’s”), likes tiny homes, garage conversions and mobile units, to be rent controlled at under $900 per month.

    II. A zoning and code variance for small green Community Land Trust clusters of homes selling for under $200,000 per unit on 5% of the 17,000 acres of privately land around Sonoma County’s cities currently restricted by the Community Separator law

    III. A zoning and code variance for small green Community Land Trust clusters of homes selling for under $200,000 per unit on 1% of 400,000 acres of privately owned Sonoma County land currently zoned as rural residential or agricultural.

    To continue reading the details of each of our full plan, click here.
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  5. TopTop #3
    EmeraldMatra's Avatar
    EmeraldMatra
     

    Re: New Sonoma County Attainable Housing Solution for 15,000 under $900 rentals + 10,000 h

    How many times am I allowed to like this proposal! This is a very big concern for me in my own life.
    Just cause eviction would be a great help as well.

    Quote Peacetown Jonathan wrote: View Post
    The Sonoma Independent Solution just published a bold new Attainable Housing Coalition solution that calls for rezoning 1% of the County to allow 15,000 rentals for under $900 and 10,000 homes costing under $200,000, without any use of taxpayer money. You can read the full proposal on the Sonoma Independent here, and sign the petition to urge our Supervisors to help make this happen here.
    ...
    Last edited by Barry; 05-02-2016 at 11:12 AM.
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  7. TopTop #4
    GinaWillis's Avatar
    GinaWillis
     

    Re: New Sonoma County Attainable Housing Solution for 15,000 under $900 rentals + 10,000 h

    Quote tommy wrote: View Post
    I read this visionary proposal. I like the concept, of new affordable units. For me,the devil is in these details:
    • The proposal would require agreement and cooperation of many people, each with their own self interest. I doubt you'd be able to get them all to work together on this.
    Yes, but getting anything significant done in a democracy requires people to get up and get organized. Power concedes nothing without a fight. And change never happens as a gift from on high, but only after those with power to decide find it in their self-interest to do so. Our task is to unite, using our numbers and our voices in sufficient strength to MAKE them listen and act. It's been done before (Marin and Novato for example), it can happen, and we can make it happen right here, right now.

    It's easy to sit on the sidelines and mumble pessimistic things, particularly if you are a landlord or you are already securely housed. But defeatism is the reason little to no attainable or affordable housing gets built, while our political leaders blather, people get evicted and priced out, and a demoralized, desperate population waits for something -- anything -- to change as the crisis escalates.

    Quote tommy wrote: View Post
    Your idea of rent controlled units under $900, or cost controlled cluster housing for under $200k is questionable. For myself, as a landlord, with an eye for economics, rent control is a mixed bag...
    Questionable to a landlord, to a developer, or to a speculator perhaps. But totally feasible. In a Community Land Trust -- which is one of the alternatives we're creating. Under this structure, the Land Trust is a nonprofit corporation. Its subsidiary title holding company acquires land and owns it forever, for the public purpose of providing attainable housing in the community. Residents own their own dwelling, and get a lifetime lease from the land trust in exchange for paying a sustainable ground rent for the land underneath their dwelling. This is the type of "controlled rent" we're talking about. There's no distorting effect on the market, no government bureaucracy involved -- because the land is permanently removed from the speculative pressures of the market. Once the cost of land is separated from the cost of buying a dwelling, people can once again afford modest homes in Sonoma County. And, more importantly, they will be able to afford to STAY in those homes without fear of skyrocketing rents, property taxes, etc.

    Quote tommy wrote: View Post
    It would be a challenge amending the Community Separator Law, to permit housing in rural or agricultural areas. I'd be surprised if supporters of the Community Separator Law would agree to allow housing on rural and agricultural land. One of the reasons Sonoma county is so beautiful, is that zoning does not allow the breakup of large parcels.
    It's always a challenge to get people thinking together about new and creative solutions to urgent problems. But let me put it this way: If the middle class can't afford a home in this beautiful county, then who is the beautiful countryside for? This doesn't have to be a "sprawl-or-nothing" situation. Small and tasteful homes could easily be clustered on, say, just an acre or two of a 10-acre parcel owned by a Community Land Trust, and blended so artfully into the landscape that you'd barely even see them. The law can be written so that only this type of attainable and environmentally conscious housing could be built on a tiny and limited percentage of the land within the Community Separator. Sprawl and private speculative development would be banned, as they are today.

    Quote tommy wrote: View Post
    Your stm "... million-plus dollar homesteads, which are, effectively, the only type of new housijng that the County's existing zoning and permit laws allow to be built"... is false. There's all kinds on construction going on around the County of low or moderately priced housing.
    And that new housing being built is....where exactly?
    Low or moderately priced...for whom?
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  9. TopTop #5
    JayS
     

    Re: New Sonoma County Attainable Housing Solution for 15,000 under $900 rentals + 10,000 h

    Thank you for your thoughtful, objective, and informative reply to tommy. Good stuff, and so right on! One of my thoughts after reading his post was, what's wrong with being in your home forever, or whatever forever looks like?

    Quote GinaWillis wrote: View Post
    [Yes, but getting anything significant done in a democracy requires people to get up and get organized. ...
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  11. TopTop #6
    wisewomn's Avatar
    wisewomn
     

    Re: New Sonoma County Attainable Housing Solution for 15,000 under $900 rentals + 10,000 h

    This is a digression but related to the topic at hand: The sign-up list for Section 8 for Santa Rosa is open now and will be for the entire month of May. Selections are made by lottery. List are only opened every 2 years. FWIW Please pass it on to anyone you know who may be interested.
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  13. TopTop #7
    tommy's Avatar
    tommy
    Supporting member

    Re: New Sonoma County Attainable Housing Solution for 15,000 under $900 rentals + 10,000 h

    I think the idea Tom Lynch has raised, of allowing 2nd units in existing dwellings, or cottages in the back yard... as he says they're doing in Novato, is a great way to create more housing. It would require support from Sonoma Co Supervisors, as it's not possible now, due to zoning.

    Units that I've seen lately under construction, are two 2 story buildings on Hwy 12 in Boys Hot Springs, I heard they were 60 units of affordable housing. Also on the north side of Hwy 12 in east Santa Rosa, near Mission, there is construction underway of what appears to be housing. I don't know the details, but a few old buildings were knocked down. There are community meetings & planning underway by the County, for the 100+ acre Chenate property, where the old hospital is.

    In Sonoma County, I think Burbank Housing has built most of the affordable housing. They have a current project called Catalina Townhouses at 2740 Dutton Meadow in Santa Rosa, of 60 sweat equity townhouses, and other housing. A company called USA Housing, based in Sacramento, built 42 apartments recently at Kawana Springs & Petaluma Hill Rd... where a 3 br apt rents for $1240/month. The rents are low due to project funding through tax concessions given to investors. Statewide "tax incentive" affordable housing proposals passed by the CA Legislature were vetoed by Gov Brown, as the budget would have taken a hit.

    From reading the CA State legislative recent report on housing, they recommend higher density and higher buildings, near transit hubs, such as the Smart Train. That's a great idea, tho I'm sure many people living nearby would protest it.

    I like the Community Land Trust idea, I still doubt that environmentalists would go for it... it could open the door to other groups with proposals to build other things on the edge of the Community Separator. I think those areas are not served by city water and sewer, so having more wells and septic systems in those areas are less desirable and more expensive than building new housing near existing city water and sewer lines. My hunch is that a Land Trust would be like CoHousing communities... small and beautiful. However they are more of a niche ... and may only supply a fraction of the demand... similar to affordable housing built by the City. The best way to create more housing is through cooperation between the government and housing developers. The word "developer" may sound evil to some, but they are in the business of building housing.
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