GUEST COLUMN: Housing grants should not just go to big developers | SierraSun.com
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GUEST COLUMN: Housing grants should not just go to big developers

Jesse McGraw, Sierra Sun contributor

We are all aware of the housing crunch in Truckee. As a resident in this area for 30 years, I along with my friends, neighbors, and co-workers have watched Truckee change.

Having watched the housing problem develop and based upon what we see happening within the community it appears things will get much worse and may never get much better.

One thing we see happening is a widening gap in available housing for the middle class. Everything being constructed in Truckee is either high dollar speculation or low income housing.

After reading about the latest low income housing project proposed for Deerfield Drive, I learned there are large sources of capital available for low income housing projects. Two and a half million dollars in grants and subsidies easily explains the motivation developers may have in helping solve the housing crisis.

However, I am concerned over the manner in which these funds are being made available and whether they are being put to the best and highest use.

I will not argue the need for low income housing. I only oppose it because, having grown up in a poor community, I have witnessed the social failures of grouping the under-privileged and non-working classes into government-subsidized housing projects. Built with the best of intentions many of these “projects” are now being destroyed in our cities, evidence of the frustration many communities face in dealing with housing. This may explain why so many of our citizens become “not-in-my-backyards” when the Town Council is considering such projects in their community.

Living in a resort community we have a number of social problems that are unique to our climate. Many low income residents are seasonal, leaving landlords challenged in keeping units rented year round or in finding responsible tenants. Many single family dwelling in our town are inhabited by groups of single, low income earners that band together as roommates in order to find affordable accommodations.

This and the proliferation of “illegal” mother-in-law type units creates problems with parking, refuse disposal, and noise within established neighborhoods. The “illegal” units are not necessarily bad for the community, they are simply not properly regulated. Many homeowners are not allowed by zoning to have two units per parcel, but motivated by available profits people convert garages, basements, and attics to substandard living space. We all know they are there and when discovered we turn the other cheek, because of the crisis.

I have heard that in other resort communities the so-called mother-in-law units are viewed as a potential solution to the housing shortage. Properly regulated and even encouraged they can create even distribution of low income housing throughout the community. When architecturally designed into a home or as additions within accepted guidelines these units could be blended into the community plan without concern for overcrowding. They would be built to code, taxed and regulated as a part of the community.

However, due to the high cost of construction in our community a properly installed second unit just does not pencil out very well. The cost of engineering and permits alone make it difficult, even if permits could be obtained.

If the developer of Deerfield Village is successful in obtaining the $2.5 million in grants and subsidies for their 80 units, that totals over $31,000 per unit. I can only wonder how many builders and homeowners would consider adding a “legal” mother-in-law unit to their proposed or existing home if they had access to this money.

I urge the Town Council to consider this as an alternative to the current proliferation of low income housing “projects” in our town.

Jesse McGraw is the operations manager for Squaw Valley Public Services District.


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