Affordable housing up for debate

July 09, 2003 12:00 am

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

A group of Calaveras County residents, planners and real estate representatives met in San Andreas last night to discuss the county's needs for affordable housing.

The county planning department arranged the meeting to get feedback about how to update the housing element of the county's general plan. The purpose of the housing element is to set guidelines to ensure that a certain amount of affordable housing is built in the county.

Deputy Planning Director Robert Sellman, who led the discussion, showed his audience 20 different charts that related to the county's housing situation.

Some of the charts indicated that overcrowding is not yet a problem, and that a majority of houses in the county are not in disrepair.

However, other charts — based on state and federal data — projected the county's population will increase from 40,554 people to 62,200 people by the year 2020, and that 3,289 more units of affordable housing will be needed.

"If I wasn't married, I couldn't afford to buy a house, and I work 40 hours a week," said Billie Westernoff, food bank director for the Human Resources Council of Calaveras County.

Sellman said updating the housing element won't suddenly create more affordable housing. However, he said, it would pave the way for more in the future.

For example, he said there is land zoned in San Andreas for high-density residential development. But because developers would rather build and sell more expensive houses — which are more profitable — the high-density land might go undeveloped.

The general plan's housing element could ensure that affordable housing is built on such property, Sellman said.

Murphys resident Albert Segalla said he was concerned that such regulations could damage the housing market, or impede a developer's property rights.

"Government solutions are not the only solutions," Segalla said. "People are capable of helping each other in many ways."