There is a lot of talk in Sacramento, and in the halls of power throughout California, about the affordable housing crisis in our state. The major problem: not enough affordable inventory…anywhere.
With a median sales price for homes in Nevada County hovering around $600,000, and statewide closing in on $800,000, most working people are priced out of homeownership. And over the past couple of years they are even priced out of safe and decent rentals. A recent survey indicated that 20% of the households in California are paying 50% or more of their monthly income toward housing, and nearly 70% are considered housing insecure (paying more than 30% of their income toward housing).
On January 19 representatives from 26 Habitat affiliates from across California (including Nevada County) met with policy-makers during Habitat California’s annual Advocacy Day. While legislators’ awareness of the housing crisis has grown more acute over the past year, their focus has been primarily on increasing the rental market rather than homeownership. The purpose of Advocacy Day is to begin changing that mind-set.
“Creating homeownership opportunities for low-income individuals and families solves a lot of problems,” says Lorraine Larson, Nevada County Habitat Executive Director. “It creates a permanent housing solution for the family. It stabilizes them economically, while it produces better health and education outcomes for children. What’s more, there is a concentric positive effect for the community as a whole with regards to neighborhood stability, health outcomes, labor force support, and savings to taxpayers. Homeownership transforms renters into home owning taxpayers. That’s significant.”
It’s this message that Habitat representatives are sending to Sacramento: support homeownership opportunities for low-income individuals and families. The priority Habitat advocates is policy that increases the production of affordable homeownership. These initiatives include:
- Mandating that 20% of all new housing funding be allocated toward the construction of owner-occupied homes for lower-income households.
- Ensure that at least $200 million is allocated for Cal Home, a program that focuses on the production of deed restricted, owner occupied homes for low-income individuals and families.
Locking in an affordable mortgage makes housing more affordable over time, unlike rental costs, which continue to rise. Homeownership also has a wealth generation benefit that helps to lift families out of poverty, increase graduation rates among children, and increases the local tax base. In fact, since its founding in 1996, Nevada County Habitat homeowners have paid over $800,000 in property taxes. Statewide, 84% of Habitat homeowners reduced their housing costs when they purchased their homes.
In its meeting with California Assembly member Megan Dahle’s staff, Nevada County Habitat along with representatives from Butte County, emphasized the health, education and safety outcomes for children, in addition to the economic benefits for families and the entire community that comes with affordable homeownership.
“We’re very grateful for the time we had with the Assembly Member’s staff,” Larson said. “These conversations are important to everyone throughout the state, but especially for rural communities like ours. Our local representatives understand that our needs are similar to other communities, but also very different. The Dahle staff seemed to understand that. They were very receptive to our message.”
Larson added that the request for Cal Home funding was vital. “It’s the only state program in which funding for the construction of affordable owner-occupied homes is available. It’s over-subscribed and under-funded. Investment in this program is vital to overcoming the affordable housing challenge we are facing throughout the state.”
Nevada County Habitat is looking to strengthen its advocacy efforts in the coming year. Besides meeting with state legislators, efforts at the federal and the local level is needed. Having conversations with city and town council members, county supervisors, and planning commissioners are important in ensuring that affordable homeownership is made a priority.
To learn more about, or become a part of, Nevada County Habitat’s advocacy effort, visit our Advocacy web page or call us at (530) 274-1951.