As we look forward to the New Year, it is always important to look back and reflect on some of our accomplishments over the past year. Housing has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds and a top priority for the City Council this year. As 2016 has come to a close we can all celebrate the many housing successes and accomplishments we achieved as a community this year. Even with these success, there still much work to do.
In 2016, we expanded our relationships with our local housing service providers North Sonoma County Services (NSCS) and Committee on the Shelterless (COTS). These organizations provide emergency and transitional housing services in our community and assist families at risk of displacement from their homes. NSCS and COTS manage the City’s eleven transitional housing units, a critical program that stabilizes families and enables them to move into more permanent housing. We also continued our partnership with the Housing Land Trust of Sonoma County (HLT) which has helped house low income families in the 16 affordable homes at Sonata, Sorrento Square and Chiquita Grove and continues to find qualified buyers for affordable homes that remain available. HLT has been a critical partner with the City as we continue to provide housing for our lower income families through our Inclusionary Housing program. Through our partnership with Fair Housing Sonoma County we have also hosted a Fair Housing Seminar, which was attended by local property owners and managers representing more than 170 rental units in our community, providing information on fair housing, recent changes under the law and expanding access to fair housing services in Healdsburg.
One of the most exciting aspects of the affordable housing conversation has been our ability to add approximately 74 units of affordable rental housing in our community over the next 12 to 24 months. These units are a direct response to a need identified by residents at over 16 public meetings - the need to construct an additional 200 affordable units in our community over the next six years. These units will come from three different projects. We hope to begin construction of 24 units of very low to low rental units at 1201 Grove Street in 2017. We also anticipate another 42 units of low to moderate affordable rental units at 110 Dry Creek. More recently the City Council approved the purchase of another 8 units at 721 Center Street, preserving our affordable rental stock and preventing the potential displacement of eight lower income families in our community. With the addition of these affordable units we are well on our way to meeting our target. Construction of these units will increase our affordable housing stock to approximately 476 units, or 9.6% of our total housing stock, placing Healdsburg amongst the top of cities in the county with the most affordable units as a percentage of total housing stock.
As a tool to help keep rents down on existing rental properties, the City Council approved the Rental Unit Rehabilitation Loan Program, which offers property owners financial incentives to retain and improve our community’s valuable rental housing stock while also maintaining affordability through limited annual rent increases. This program is unique in that the City will offer a forgivable loan to the property owner for improvements to the rental property and in exchange the property owner must agree to keep the unit affordable over the term of the loan. The goal of the program is to improve the condition of rental units in our community while also protecting tenants from significant rent increases.
As we move into 2017 there is still much work to be done around affordable housing. Soon we will be seeking proposals for an affordable housing project at 155 Dry Creek Road (the property behind Big John’s) and, as Saggio Hills moves forward, there will be additional opportunities to build more units over time. As these projects progress it is important we hear from you. If you have any questions or comments I would encourage you to contact the Housing Department. Here is wishing everyone a happy and prosperous New Year from City Hall!
(posted on behalf of David Mickaelian - KM)