Nevada County Area Median Income Chart, April 2022

There is a lot of talk these days about whether or not our Affordable housing is affordable. And, of course, the answer is not easy. One issue lies in the federal funding for Affordable housing. These funds, that help get housing built, come with the requirement that the operators collect rent that is equal to 30% of the resident’s gross income. That is a higher percentage than most mortgages. And, unlike mortgages, if you work more hours, or more jobs, you don’t get to bank the extra. It either gets calculated in for the 30% or, you earn too much and no longer qualify as a resident. Yuck.

Additionally the town’s “workforce” housing policy is currently only linked to the creation of new commercial square footage. Meaning, if you build more commercial space, you must create residential units for a small percentage of your future workers. (3% of employees for 9,999 sq ft, up to 14% of employees for 20,000 sq ft and larger.) Unfortunately many areas being built currently have different requirements in special development agreements, and even these few units will not be built. This type of policy does not help our current situation were existing businesses are struggling to find employees, and housing costs are still soaring.

One final issue is that many developments are using a “alternative equivalent” to affordable housing which requires that units be rented to locals with full time jobs within the school district. This sounds great, but does not in any way require those units to be affordable to those employees. Additionally, enforcement of this alternative has been… challenging.

So perhaps the policy limiting the number of short term rentals in town will alleviate some of the pressure on owners to sell homes for top dollar. Perhaps that will cool the market for homes bought solely for investment. Time will tell. In the mean time we need to address a broader workforce housing policy, and make living here affordable (small “a”) for our actual businesses and employees.

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