Task force take on housing element

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By SCOTT PESZNECKER

Calaveras County supervisors will appoint a task force of local officials, residents and housing experts to revise the county General Plan's Housing Element.

The present Housing Element which sets guidelines to promote affordable housing was recently rejected by the state.

The element is set to expire at the end of the calendar year. Without a state-certified replacement, the county could lose out on thousands of dollars in grant money.

However, acting Planning Director Robert Sellman said it's unlikely the state would punish the county if it is revising the element.

"If everyone thinks there is fair progress, there's not an issue," Sellman said at yesterday's board meeting.

Supervisors Merita Callaway and Victoria Erickson will sit on the task force, along with county residents, affordable housing advocates, builders and real estate agents.

Sellman said he will seek a neutral moderator to guide the panel. "Perhaps we can get a full concurrence from the community," he said.

Erickson said she wants task force meetings to start next month.

In October, supervisors sent the county's current Housing Element to the state without making any significant changes. They did so even after the county Planning Department warned that the document would not address long-term needs for affordable housing and may not meet state requirements.

The Planning Department had proposed several updates to the housing element, such as requiring builders to provide affordable housing either as part of their projects or elsewhere.

Other proposed revisions would have waived builders fees for those renovating dilapidated buildings, provided for a new county staff member to pursue housing grants and required large-scale developments to provide housing for their seasonal workers.

But supervisors rejected them all.

Then the Department of Housing and Community Development rejected Calaveras County's unchanged housing element. The department's letter said the county did not properly designate land that could be used for affordable housing, or say how affordable housing would be advanced by government regulations, or by public or private programs.

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