Government

Mendocino County Grand Jury Investigates ‘Critical Lack of Affordable and Available Housing’

The following is a press release issued by the Mendocino County Grand Jury:

The Mendocino County Grand Jury has released a report on housing needs.

“Due to the critical lack of affordable and available housing, the Grand Jury (GJ) began investigating what was currently being done to improve the availability of housing in Mendocino County. Planning and Building Services (PBS) functions are currently limited to permitting the development of housing and ensuring that projects meet regulatory standards. PBS is not active in seeking modifications to State standards to meet the local housing needs and have experienced difficulty completing permit applications in a timely manner. All PBS functions are passive without specific direction from the Board of Supervisors (BOS).

The Mendocino County Community Development Commission (CDC) and Rural Community Housing Development Corporation (RCHDC) have been primary sources of developing new housing to address local needs. Of the cities, Ukiah has developed a creative way to adapt to the demand for new housing developments through a trust fund, supported by leasing city- owned property for market-rate construction.

It appears that the County will not meet the State assigned number of new units without local action to remove obstructions to development, increase Agency collaboration and find funds to develop new infrastructure. The GJ believes that PBS should be directed to increase its capacity to serve these functions”. 

FINDINGS

F1. The areas around cities have the best developed sewer and water systems for new housing in Mendocino County. Rural areas of the County do not have adequate public infrastructure and amenities to meet HCD projections. 

F2. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, PBS has developed more efficient digital options for routine matters which has created a more streamlined process to free PBS to pursue new opportunities for solving departmental issues and verifying State regulations and statistics.

F3. MCOG is designated by the State of California Department of Housing and Community Development to coordinate the housing need allocation process for Mendocino County. By default, this has become the regional planning agency.

F4. Lack of housing forces the price of existing housing to be unaffordable for working families as well as preventing new potential employees to choose to work in Mendocino County.

F5. The Median income of county residents and the higher cost of goods and services does not keep pace with the cost of new single-family homes, which discourages contractors from building here when they can profit from building in other areas.

F6. The current shortage of affordable housing will continue without Mendocino County hiring qualified housing and community development planners. Such assets would assist in locating funding sources for infrastructure improvements, attracting appropriate developers, and informing the BOS what effect proposed regulations may have on the development of new housing. 

F7. There is no formal or consistent communication between PBS and its counterparts in the cities of Fort Bragg, Point Arena, Ukiah and Willits which is indicative of the lack of planning on a regional basis in this County.

F8. The prohibitive cost of new construction and limited income of most area residents makes new market-rate projects risky for builders.

F9. The activation of a Mendocino County Building Trust Fund (In-Lieu fund) would give Mendocino County leverage in encouraging proactive development to meet the county’s needs for infrastructure and housing projects.

F10. Federal and State funding is targeted to urban areas and the BOS does not direct PBS to actively seek mitigations on these restrictions to acquire funding for housing projects when State & Federal funds become available.

F11. As a result of restrictions on the use of local budget monies, Mendocino County’s Native American Tribes may only be invited to the table when discretionary funds for housing are available through Federal sources. 
The recommendations and the entire report are attached, and will be posted to the Grand Jury’s website: https://www.mendocinocounty.org/government/grand-jury/2020-2021-reports

Categories: Government, News

1 reply »

  1. The bizarrely punitive actions of building department jackboots also makes people fear seeking permitting. It has become an agency of self-licking ice cream cones violating a litany of state and federal laws to abuse authority over trivial violations or retroactive rule changes.

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