By JOSHUA WOLFSON
More than half of Sonora households qualify as lower income by federal standards, according to a just-released city report.
Of the 1,140 households that took part in the Housing Condition and Income Survey, 55 percent earn a "low" or "very low" income rating, based on criteria set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"People think (Sonora) is a more affluent community that it is," said Rachelle Kellogg, city grants/redevelopment program manager.
Low income is defined as 80 percent of the median for Tuolumne County. For a family of four, the median income is $47,800. A single-person household's median income is $33,450, and the median for a two-person household is $38,250.
Sonora officials spent months conducting the survey to help address the city's housing needs, said City Administrator Greg Applegate.
"It just gives a clearer snapshot of the community, so we know the assets and the liabilities of our housing stock," Applegate said.
The survey, which measured the city's housing and population, will also be used to improve existing housing programs, Applegate said.
"This allows us to really target those areas," he said.
Sonora's health and social resources might be one reason for its high percentage of low-income households, said Beetle Barbour of the Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency.
"All of the services are located in Sonora," she said.
But having a majority of low-income households will make it easier for Sonora to qualify for certain grants, Kellogg said.
Kellogg, along with city staff members Kim Campbell and Sheala Wilkinson, gathered the survey data between February and July. The survey was paid for with a $35,000 federal grant.
"It was a lot of work, but the staff enjoyed meeting the citizens," Kellogg said. "We have a really good feel for the housing needs of the city."
In pairs, they visited every home in Sonora, speaking with residents at 792 of the 2,135 occupied residences. Another 348 households completed surveys left on their doors.