To: Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and Sonoma County Planning Commission

Support the Sonoma Independent's Attainable Housing Solution

I urge our County Supervisors and Planning Commissioners to support the SonomaIndependent.org and the Attainable Housing Coalition's proposal to create zoning and permitting variances and amend the forthcoming Community Separator Initiative to allow private landowners to build 15,000 units of small auxiliary housing units rent controlled for under $900, as well as 10,000 units of small houses costing under $200,000 in Community Land Trust clusters during the next 15 years.

Why is this important?

For tens of thousands of citizens of Sonoma County being evicted from their homes or worried about rising costs, the shortage of attainably priced housing for moderate income people has become the most urgent crisis in the County. Every political candidate and elected representative speaks of the need to address our housing crisis, but nobody in County or local government has developed a plan capable of adding more attainably priced housing units.

As a result—and in the absence of an Attainable Housing Solution like the one being proposed below by the politically independent grassroots Sonoma County Attainable Housing Coalition and the SonomaIndependent.org—the current housing crisis will worsen.

Without a bold solution to this crisis, only new rentals coming available and the only new homes available for purchase will remain affordable to only the wealthy. Thousands, or even tens of thousands of our neighbors, as well as farm laborers and other moderate-income workers, will continue to be priced out of our communities. Children who have grown up here will be unable to live as adults near their families, and many senior renters, our must vulnerable residents, will be forced from the community in which they have lived for decades or have chosen for their retirement. They will be priced out by escalating costs and replaced by newcomers who can afford skyrocketing rents or the million-dollar-plus homes, which are, effectively, the only type of housing that the County’s existing zoning and permitting laws allow to be built.

The Sonoma County Attainable Housing Solution is a three-prong solution that would allow, at zero cost to taxpayers, the creation, during the next 15 years, of 15,000 new small homes rent controlled at under $900 per unit, as well as 10,000 small environmentally friendly homes in non-profit housing clusters, cost-controlled to under $200,000. Our solution could be implemented this year by a simple vote of a majority of our County Supervisors, along with a modest adjustment to the upcoming Community Separator extension that is up for voter renewal this year.

If implemented, this Solution could create 25,000 new rent and cost-controlled units of housing to house 30,000 people who will otherwise be forced to leave Sonoma County, or not be able to move here, because of the skyrocketing cost of housing.

An April 24 column in the Press Democrat by syndicated Bloomberg columnist Justin Fox titled "Why Housing is Too Expensive" concluded, “I can’t help but think that this is a case where we may need both less government (in the form of a rollback of zoning and other housing regulations) and more government (in the form of housing subsidies for the poor).”

Sonoma County’s Supervisors are taking necessary measures to find and fund solutions for the homeless. What they have not done, and what needs to happen now, is a zoning and permitting rollback that is focused, with laser-like precision, on creating thousands of units of attainably priced, new housing.

The Sonoma Independent Solution allows the marketplace to create an unprecedented boom in attainably priced housing by reducing expensive regulations on auxiliary dwelling units, and by re-zoning a tiny percentage of private land in the County solely for the creation of attainably priced housing so that small landowners will be empowered to use the free market to address the County’s housing crisis.

For a variety of reasons—from density issues to accessibility to a lower carbon footprint—some of these attainably priced homes would be located near cities. With that in mind, our Solution requires amending the upcoming Community Separator initiative that will be on the November 2016 ballot to allow some of this attainably priced cost-controlled housing to be placed on about 5% of the land covered by the law.

The Sonoma Independent Attainable Housing Solution would provide the capability for middle-class landowners to either sell currently unsaleable small parcels of land for non-profit housing communities of inexpensive small homes or to become middle-class landlords of rent stabilized small house tenants, while generating millions of dollars in new tax revenue for Sonoma County.

Our Solution has built strong safeguards to ensure that for-profit developers will never be able to take advantage of these zoning adjustments for housing that are not attainably priced. All of the rental units will be controlled so that they can never be rentable for more than $900, plus increases pegged to the local rate of inflation. Those built as part of non-profit Community Land Trusts could never be rented for profit, or sold for more than $200,000 (plus the rate of inflation).

In addition, all the new homes created would be environmentally friendly and conscious of their neighbors. There would be no more than two housing communities of no more than 20 small homes per square mile. Most of the new modest, small-home communities would have solar panels to be net generators of energy, and would contain organic gardens to sustain our local food supply. All the new communities would be forbidden from using pesticides, Roundup, herbicides, or GMO seed. They would also not be able to build asphalt roads, or to grow commercial grapes or cannabis.

The Sonoma Independent and the County Attainable Housing Coalition believes this solution provides a historic opportunity to reverse the current trend of new housing affordable only for the wealthy, and build 25,000 new units of attainably priced small homes, with zero use of taxpayer dollars, while creating $15 million annually in new tax revenue for the County, and more than $100 million in additional income for middle-class landowners.

This solution is comprised of three parts:

I. Zoning and code variance for auxiliary dwelling units (“ADU’s”), likes tiny homes, garage conversions and mobile units, to be rent controlled at under $900 per month.

II. An allowance for small gree...

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Reasons for signing

  • California is in a housing crisis and our elected officials are not coming up with answers. It's time for non-profits to take over.
  • We have a desperate housing shortage here. I own a little over an acre (zoned RR) in the center of town but zoned unincorporated, and am not permitted to build even a small auxiliary cottage. This needs to change!
  • This housing situation around all of the bay area, is scary and generates a lot of anxiety. It's insane, expense housing creates more homelessness.

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