Low-cost housing need triggers ballot measure

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – ​With survey results showing strong support for developing more low-income housing, Humboldt County’s Board of Supervisors has approved placing a housing measure on the November election ballot.

​At their July 7 meeting, supervisors approved ballot measure language on allowing the county “to obtain state and federal funding to construct, develop, or acquire housing affordable for low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities within unincorporated areas, either directly or through assisting private projects.”

​The proposed measure is necessary to comply with Article 34 of the state constitution, which prohibits local governments from direct involvement in developing or funding housing projects unless voters approve.

​Miranda Everett of the FM3 consulting firm, which the county hired to conduct the surveying, outlined the favorable polling results.

​The firm polled 513 local voters from various parts of the unincorporated county area. Everett reported that 68 percent of them view the cost of housing as an extremely or very serious problem and 85 percent support having the county take a role in developing affordable housing.

​The proposed measure’s language drew overall 81 percent support in the polling, Everett told supervisors.

​“So there are very strong indications here that folks recognize the problem, that it’s pretty acute and that there is support in principle for a specific ballot measure that helps address these issues,” she said.

​The surveying showed that 78 percent of respondents support the highest low-income housing goal of 1,700 units, which would account for five percent of the county’s total number of units.

​A more conservative number, 870 units, gained a similar level of survey support, at 81 percent of respondents.

​Supervisor Rex Bohn noted that “in the unincorporated areas, nothing gets built very easily” and he asked Planning Director John Ford, “Are we still gonna have to suffer all the people saying it’ll kill the earth if we do this?”

​Describing the question as one that “always gets raised if any kind of development gets attempted,” Ford said the board “should have some confidence” in having the ability to choose appropriate locations for projects.

​“The county can be particular about trying to choose projects that minimize those kinds of concerns,” he continued.

​The measure drew support during a public comment session.  Kent Sawatzky of the Humboldt Taxpayers League said the measure is worthy of support and won’t affect local taxation.

​Colin Fiske of the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities said his group also supports it and he encouraged choosing locations that are in or near population centers and accessible to services.

​Asked about the type of housing the county will sponsor, Ford said units classified as being for low or very low income residents are most needed.

​The state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Assessment sets planning goals for development of housing and the county’s development of low and very low income units is “way below what our regional share is,” said Ford.

​“So that’s really what we want to target,” he continued.

​Approval for putting the measure on the ballot with the 1,700-unit housing level was unanimous. A resolution formalizing the action will come to supervisors at their July 28 meeting.



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