Public can comment on Housing Element

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By ERIN MAYES

The heat is on.

The new Tuolumne County General Plan Housing Element must be sent to the state by the end of the year. But first it has to be considered by the county's four planning commissions and adopted by the Board of Supervisors. With sessions in Jamestown and Groveland, commission hearings begin today.

The Housing Element is a document every county in the state must update to accommodate population growth projected through mid-2007.

Tuolumne County will need 3,852 new homes in the next four years, California's Department of Housing and Community Development has estimated. Of those, 899 must be made available to households with very low incomes families of four that earn $23,900 or less.

Almost 650 must be available to low-income households, which bring in from 50 to 80 percent of the county's median income of $47,800. And, almost 750 units must be available to moderate-income households, which earn from 80 to 120 percent of the median income. The remaining units would be available to people or families with incomes above the moderate level.

The draft Housing Element includes an "inclusionary zoning ordinance" that might make affordable housing easier to find. It would require developers building five or more units to make between 10 and 20 percent of them available to buyers with very low to moderate incomes.

As an incentive to build more affordable homes, the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors Planning Committee recommended in June that all affordable housing developments move to the top of the Community Development Department's priority list. This "fast track" policy is also part of the proposed new Housing Element.

Also up for approval is a Housing Element section that would allow homeowners to rent "granny units" in their homes without meeting the county's density requirements.

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