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Affordable housing qualifications changed

Darin Olde, Sierra Sun

If you didn’t qualify for affordable housing before, you may squeak under the bar now that qualification restrictions have been reduced in Nevada County.

Newly released median income figures for 2001 will raise income limits for affordable housing projects by several hundred dollars, making the window of opportunity just a little bit larger.

The median income figures for Nevada County rose 1.6 percent from 2000. Currently, the maximum income for a single individual seeking housing is $20,520, but some of the very low units have maximum income caps for a single individual at $15,390.

Sierra Village, an affordable housing complex under construction on Highway 267, has been leasing units for about six weeks, but the units haven’t been scooped up as fast as developers thought.

“We still have some 3-bedroom units,” said Kelly Bennett, a leasing agent with Sierra Village. The Village is composed of 72 residential units: eight two-bedroom units, 56 three-bedroom units and eight four-bedroom units. Fifty-seven units will be reserved for low or very low income housing.

While Bennett doesn’t know how many applications she has handed out, about 40 people filled out an application so far, but not all of those applicants will qualify.

“The processing time is lengthy,” said Mark Walther, chief executive with American Community Development, the owners of Sierra Village. “In that time a third to half make too much money to qualify.”

With about 75 families on the waiting list for income restricted units at Truckee Pines, an affordable housing complex right across from the Village, the relatively slow application rate has surprised developers with American Community Development.

“I don’t know if it’s that the word isn’t getting out or that it’s poor timing,” Walther added. “We have advertised in the paper in English and Spanish.”

The reality is that it’s probably a combination of both.

Sierra Village is still under construction, so the units won’t be available until late June or early July. The only indication that the multifamily complex has begun leasing units is a board nailed to a tree that has the address “10081” spray-painted across the front in red to let interested tenants know that they have found the right address. A trailer contains the cramped quarters of Bennett, who shares the space with the contractors.

There are no other signs, no other structures other than the hollow residential buildings with scaffolding and plastic wrap draped across the outside.

Winter conditions are fading, but the cool temperatures may also be keeping people away. Most seasonal employers are also letting people go, and the great revolving door for transient residents has begun.

But not all seasonal workers are transient, said Tom Ballou, the site manager for Truckee Pines. “You have a tremendous amount of people who are seasonal workers but live here full time.”

The seasonal lift operator at the ski resorts is a common misperception of who seasonal employees really are, he said. The contingent of Truckee people who need affordable housing is large, but it’s a varied group, from seasonal employees at the ski resort to senior citizens, single-parent families, young couples and the disabled.

“One of problems with affordable housing is that it’s totally complex,” said Ruth Frishman, a local attorney who managed 4,000 affordable housing units in the 1980s and now practices real estate construction law.

Beyond the tax credit allocations, funding criteria and building process, the diversity of housing projects to serve a increasing diversified market is another variable.

“We need education in our community for people to understand affordable housing. Our understanding is back in the 1960s. People talk about army barracks and outdated practices that aren’t in use anymore,” she said.

To help get a handle on the housing needs in the community Truckee Town Council commissioned a housing needs study earlier this year.

“The study will focus on all aspects of housing but clearly affordable housing is needed in Truckee,” said Stephen L. Wright, the town’s manager. “The study will address how we evaluate the variety of housing needs and how we will budget both financial and physical resources to deal with those needs.”

The study is expected to be complete late this summer.

To contact Sierra Village call (530) 550-1110 or look for the trailer and wood sign at 10081 Martis Valley Rd.


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