El Dorado County Planning Commission, Supervisors talk affordable housing

Eric Jaramishian
Mountain Democrat

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The El Dorado County 2021-29 Housing Element, the county’s housing handbook of housing goals and policies, has been certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

C.J. Freeland, Housing Community and Economic Development department analyst, shared the news May 10 at an El Dorado County Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission joint affordable housing workshop to kick off the afternoon discussion.

The discussion was geared toward creating policy and brainstorming ideas that would help accelerate affordable housing for low- and moderate- income earning households, as well as workforce and senior housing.

County leaders considered utilizing tiny homes as an affordable housing option, an inclusionary zoning policy and implementing affordable housing in new or existing mobile home parks.

During the meeting Board Chair and District 4 Supervisor Lori Parlin asked about incentives for locals to stay in the county.

“There’s houses being built and folks are getting out of the big cities, coming here and out-pricing our kids who want to stay in our communities,” Parlin said.

District 4 Planning Commissioner Andy Nevis shared similar concerns for people who grew up in the county having trouble affording houses here.

“One of the things that makes that (housing) happen is if the folks who are currently living in these homes are able to move up and purchase a larger home,” Nevis said.

District 3 Planning Commissioner John Clerici commentated that because of the county’s more elderly demographic, residents are more likely to downsize their home, a perspective no one contested.

“When we sell a home to someone who lives in the county, that then creates more housing opportunity as opposed to selling someone outside of the county,” Nevis added.

In response Freeland said while it would be discriminatory to block outside homebuyers, there is a tradeoff.

“In a specific program, if you offer an incentive, there is an exchange,” Freeland said. “(For example) if we were to give someone a deferral on, let’s say a down payment, either deed or workforce restriction, you can do that if you have enough skin in the game.”

Different revenue streams would need to be considered if the county goes that route.

Placer County was referenced often in the conversation for its workforce housing.

Placer and Nevada counties were also referenced for the use of tiny homes, which county leaders seemed to be on board with.

“(Tiny homes) are an important conversation to have regarding our Housing Element, because it is out there, it is viable and working in different counties,” District 5 Supervisor Sue Novasel said.

Berkeley-based real estate business BAE Urban Economics, which helped county staff prepare a housing study for the workshop, came up with the idea of including an inclusionary zoning policy and mandating developers to provide affordable units, which they determined could generate 581 single-family affordable units by 2041.

“If we are serious about building affordable housing, we’re going to have to get serious about pre-investments to incentivize that,” District 3 Supervisor Wendy Thomas said. “As we move forward, I would be open to figuring what kind of deferral program we can offer developers on entire developments if it were to include inclusionary zoning.”

Parlin brought the idea of implementing affordable housing units in mobile home parks as another consideration.

Currently, the county requires issuing a conditional use permit to build a new mobile home park.

“I think this is something we should consider given the requests for senior housing and the mobile parks are currently very popular among seniors,” Parlin said.

Thomas provided another idea to designate the Missouri Flat corridor as a “Green Zone” to be awarded grants from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments to fund housing projects.

“It doesn’t tie a project or property to anything. It’s a funding opportunity,” Thomas said. “If a property owner were to have a housing project, they could apply for grant funding that would pay for infrastructure upgrades. If the developer could get that grant funding, it might make the housing project full.”

To be nominated as a SACOG Green Zone, Missouri Flat will need to promote infill, reduce regulatory and economic barriers to infill and support new transportation options, according to the SACOG website.

Green Zones need to be places where significant new growth is planned so efforts to accelerate infill, travel choice and vehicle electrification all have potential to be complementary strategies.

To supplement the workshop BAE Urban Economics staff Matt Kowta and Bilal Ali prepared a housing study on the county.

Households on the West Slope total 57,542 units and 4,273 in the Tahoe Basin, both increasing by 8% in an 11-year timespan from 2010 to 2021.

The median age countywide ranges from 37-47.

BAE determined the median household income was calculated at $92,754 on the West Slope and $61,215 in the Tahoe Basin.

It was determined that 32% of households on the West Slope and 40% in the Tahoe Basin were “cost-burdened.”

Households that spent more than 30% of their income on housing are determined to be cost-burdened and households spending more than 50% are considered “severely cost-burdened.”

Throughout unincorporated El Dorado County, there are more than 20,000 households that pay 30% of their income on housing costs.

In 2021 the median sale price for homes was $630,000 on the West Slope and $680,000 in the Tahoe Basin.

BAE did another study in 2019 for the county that predicted 10,284 housing units will be added countywide by 2041.

After the workshop the Board of Supervisors directed staff to perform a list of duties, including reexamining surplus parcels for possible affordable housing options and tiny homes and researching inclusionary zoning policy with a fee deferral program. Staff is also to look into new residential zoning overlays for mixed-use on commercial lands to encourage affordable housing, zoning options for affordable housing in new or existing mobile home parks, designation of the Missouri Flat corridor as a possible Green Zone and a housing trust fund.

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