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.