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Disputed Calaveras County Housing Plan Sent To State

The draft housing plan has been officially approved by the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors, and now awaits endorsement or comments from state officials.

Monday night, supervisors accepted the plan 3-2, with Supervisors Merita Callaway and Lucy Thein opposed.

Supervisors rejected a proposal two weeks ago that would have added programs to encourage lower cost housing to the draft housing element of the county´s general plan. State law requires that the county update the element every five years. Instead, they adopted a plan little changed from their old one, adopted in 1991.

“The housing element has no substance,” said Wes Kulm of the Calaveras County Housing Coalition, a group of nonprofits, public officials and others who advocate lower cost housing programs.

It won´t be long until there is a sense of outrage from the public, added Steve Amarant, also of the coalition.

Numbers, provided by the Central Sierra Planning Council, a regional planning agency, show an affordable housing need. Between 2000 and 2007, Calaveras will need to have built another 3,289 units to accommodate its growing population. About 40 percent of the new units will be needed by very-low and low-income residents.

“Even though the public said we have a problem, (supervisors) had a plan in front of them, they just didn´t like it,” Frank Meyer of Habitat for Humanity said.

“I don´t want to see a huge government program,” Supervisor Victoria Erickson said.

Rather, the board said it wants a committee to come up with a solution to the county´s housing dilemma by implementing a voluntary grassroots effort. The entire board expressed support for a countywide group.

The housing coalition met Wednesday to discuss the supervisors´ approach to the housing element and to develop a plan for what the committee should look like.

The coalition decided to write a letter to the board offering suggestions for the new committee´s framework. The letter will recommend the committee include members of the following communities: real estate, nonprofit and for-profit developers, lenders, low-income, utility districts, supervisors, economic development, City of Angels, land owners, faith and the Chamber of Commerce.

The draft housing plan has been sent to the state Department of Housing and Community Development for certification prior to final adoption by the board.

The coalition decided to send to the state copies of communication with the board and staff members throughout the housing element development process to illustrate that there is a grassroots concern about the submitted housing plan.

The coalition decided to not send a letter urging the state to reject the “inadequate” element.

A controversial piece of the dumped plan would have required developers to provide “direct construction” of low-income houses or contribute money to an overall program, often referred to as inclusionary housing.

“I´m not in favor of putting it on our development community,” Supervisor Paul Stein said. “They already have enough fees” referring to a proposed road impact mitigation fee that supervisors deferred on Monday.

“People aren´t going to do it out of the goodness of their heart,” Meyer said.

Mercy Housing, a member of the coalition, would like to see inclusionary housing. “We can´t give up on the housing element, it has to be done,” Dave Hoffman of Mercy Housing said.

There has to be a policy that´s going to put pressure for participation and incentives for participation, Hoffman said.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Vanessa Turner. For more Calaveras news, click:calaverasenterprise.com