Affordable housing issue pressed

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By CHRIS BATEMAN

Tuolumne County might require developers to provide some low-income housing as a condition of project approval.

Proposed "inclusionary zoning" would require that builders of subdivisions, condominiums or other residential projects set aside a certain percentage of proposed units for people with "very low" to "moderate" incomes.

These units, under terms similar to ordinances adopted by many California counties and cities, could be built on the site of any proposed new development or at separate locations.

Also, developers might satisfy the obligation by paying "in-lieu fees" that would help build the required affordable units.

This proposal and others as part of a pending update of the Tuolumne County General Plan's Housing Element will be considered by the Board of Supervisors Planning Committee when it meets tomorrow.

Mike Laird, principal county planner, said the state is requiring that the Housing Element be updated by Dec. 31 to accommodate population growth projected for Tuolumne County through mid-2007.

By that time, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the county will need 3,852 new homes.

Of these, 899 must be affordable to people with very-low incomes: less than half the county's median household income of $47,800; 646 for people with low incomes: 50 to 80 percent of the median; 747 by people with moderate incomes: 80 to 120 percent of median; and 1,561 people with above-moderate incomes.

Policies in the revised housing element must be aimed at meeting these targets, Laird said.

Other related issues and proposals that might be discussed at tomorrow's Planning Committee meeting include density bonuses for developers providing affordable housing, allowing second residences in more zones, establishing density minimums to encourage full use of property in small-lot zones and offering fee waivers and breaks to developers who build low-to-moderate-income units.

The broad-based Housing Affordability Task Force, formed by the Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce and Tuolumne County Board of Realtors several months ago, is also working to ease the county's shortage of affordable housing.

"I guess the ball got rolling when a few of our businesses had job applicants come up and realize they couldn't find a place to live with the salary they would get," said George Segarini, task force chairman and chamber president. "We realized some changes were needed."

Among the diverse panel members are Mountain Springs developer Ron Kopf and Paula Authier of Voters Choice the grassroots group whose petition campaign brought withdrawal of the controversial Mountain Springs project in late 2001. Revised plans for the housing and commercial project near Mountain Springs Golf Course have yet to be submitted.

Also on the 12-member panel are Segarini, Realtor Sally Allison, Sonora Mayor Marlee Powell, low-income housing specialist Beetle Barbour and Ty Wivell, a banker, rancher and county planning commissioner.

Segarini said the committee supports adoption of an inclusionary ordinance to help fill the county's affordable-housing gap.

"It isn't our idea," he said. "It has worked elsewhere."

Twelve of California's 58 counties and 95 of its 467 cities have already adopted inclusionary ordinances.

Other counties might soon be pressured to follow suit: A pending Assembly bill would require that 20 percent of all new housing approved by counties and cities in successive three-year periods be affordable by people with low and very-low incomes.

Exemptions, however, would be granted to jurisdictions adopting inclusionary ordinances before Jan. 1, 2004.

Nearby governments that have adopted such ordinances:

? Placer County, where anyone who develops six units or more must make 15 percent affordable for low- to moderate-income families.

? Jackson, where developers of 10 or more units must set aside 10 percent as affordable.

Laird said he expects action from the Planning Committee tomorrow.

"This is the third meeting at which the committee has discussed the housing element, and we're running up on some state deadlines," he said. "It's time for some direction."

Preparation of a draft inclusionary ordinance, ready for state review and committee endorsement, would be one such step.

Should the committee OK the draft, it would move on to planning commissions and the county Board of Supervisors for final approval.

11505104
The Union Democrat
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