NEVADA CITY, Calif. March 14, 2017 – Four years ago, I came back to Nevada County to grow food. It has been sobering to realize that I cannot afford to live where I grew up or serve the community I love. For me and for many who have come to contribute to the life of this place, the cost of housing is draining our energies and driving us away.

The market for housing has mounted to a crisis; less acute, smaller in scope, but no less present in Nevada County than in urban centers around the world. When housing is treated as a commodity in the rental, short-term rental or housing markets, the seller captures a value that is created by a community and a place that is not theirs to own.

While a few reap the benefits of increased property and rental values, many of us who grow food, prepare meals, build houses, care for the elderly, pump gas, monitor wildlife, teach children, work at nonprofits, stock groceries, maintain infrastructure and so many other things that make this place what it is, bear the cost. Still others are pushed out of housing altogether.

At 1:30pm on Thursday, the 16th, the Nevada City Planning Commission meeting has what would potentially be the largest development in its history, the Grove, on the agenda. Unexpectedly, the developers of this project have decided not to attend. Nonetheless, their intention is to seek compliance with Nevada City’s affordable housing ordinance by proposing an “affordable by design” plan. This plan makes the dubious claim that the nature of the project they intend to build will assure its affordability.

Every other housing project since the ordinance’s adoption in 2003 has used deed restriction to assure affordability in perpetuity. We call on the Planning Commission to consider whether the developer’s “affordable by design” alternative constitutes meaningful policy, or, at the very least, does not controvert any common sense understanding of the ordinance’s purpose. We also ask that our representatives look toward a more comprehensive solution to the crisis we face.

The housing market exposes its irrationality when it fractures communities, undermining the source of its own value. It contradicts its very reason for being by threatening our homes. Markets are there to serve us; we are not here to serve markets; we will not leave to serve markets. Therefore, we demand that these mechanisms be placed under community control.

The developers have asked the Commission to consider their bottom line in this decision. I invite everyone who shares my concerns to come on the 16th and ask the Commission to consider ours.

Cody Curtis lives in Nevada City.

2 replies on “Op-Ed | Cody Curtis: Housing crisis in Nevada County”

  1. As an affordable housing advocate in the bay area I will tell you that we need every single unit of new housing our state can gets its hands on. The numbers range between 1.6 million to stabilize the market, to 3.6 million units to create the kind of healthy housing markets you find in other parts of the county.

    Affordable by design is not affordable housing that low income folks can usually access and the California state housing assessment shows that they are the folks who are the most deeply impacted by the crisis. On a project like this I would prefer to see both affordable by design AND permanently subsidized homes in addition to the market rate housing. If it means providing a density bonus to the developer all the better because it would encourage even more desperately needed housing units. That said, if this is a project that could start construction immediately (well as fast as these kinds of developments can go) one might decide to require many more affordable by design units and permanently affordable units when the next part of the city’s land is planned for development.

    I applaud Nevada City for doing its part to add housing stock, so many regions of our state downright refuse new development, to the detriment of families at every price point in this housing shortage, but most of all vulnerable disabled, senior and low income communities of color. Thank you Nevada City for showing leadership on this vitally important issue!

  2. Thank you, Angela, for your balanced and informed perspective. I agree that we need more housing and am by no means opposing new development. I would like to see this project built. But I also hope our representatives in government take this opportunity to meaningfully address the crisis we are in. There is so much to be done but weakening our existing affordable housing ordinance is not a direction I think we should be considering.

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