Simple: Build more housing
We have a real housing crisis right now in Napa and in California. People without homes are living in tents, beside our freeways, alongside the rivers, under the overpasses, anywhere they can.
Rents are skyrocketing, due to the hot real estate market in California and the difficulty of building in California. Securing a building permit is 10 times harder than it was 10 years ago. This adds real cost to building anything. “Regular” single-family homes are not being built quickly enough and when they are built, young people and families cannot afford to buy them.
The state and local counties are all talking about “affordable housing” but they build only a fraction of the needed housing and at very high cost. These “affordable housing units” are beautiful and rare, and they cost $400,000 or more. They are not affordable by people who are just entering the housing market with no substantial assets or our workers that we all need to do the very real work of life. Construction workers, mechanics, health care workers, roofers, you name the service and we need them. What if you call a plumber and they do not show up?
Where are the new starter homes being built? How about tiny home parks? When was the last new mobile home park approved in our area? If anything, there is a move to get rid of these parks and convert them, taking away low-cost housing. A friend recently was signing all the documents to purchase a mobile/modular home in Santa Rosa. The very last document he needed to sign was a statement from the park owner stating that they were selling the park and there was absolutely no guarantee that there would be a space available in the future for my friend’s new home. Talk about last-minute disclosure. Of course they had to pass on that home. The trend is for fewer parks and spaces for these starter homes.
In contrast, how many new public storage units have been approved in our city and county using up valuable land near the city center. These storage units are essentially for people who have too much stuff and pay to keep it handy. While at the same time we have people with no homes and few low-cost housing options.
‘Crisis’ to me means that you have to do something different. There is no denying that there is a homeless crisis in California right now. There is no denying that there is a lack of affordable housing crisis in California, right now. Working people are being driven out. It’s too expensive to live in counties like Marin, like Sonoma, like Napa. And these workers, who we all rely on for their expertise, have to drive farther to their jobs from their affordable homes in other counties, making traffic even worse.
So what are some solutions?
1. Fast-track approval of modular/tiny home parks now.
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2. Restrict new public storage facilities to non-prime real estate away from city centers, make developers prove there is a real need for that storage before approving.
3. Simplify the building permit process and when it is being made more difficult make the building department officials have justify the complexity.
4. Develop temporary RV parking spaces, immediately, with port-a-potties and portable showers where the homeless can get out of tents and into used RVs. Then build more starter homes fast.
Our local officials know some of this stuff already and at first hand, they can see it, like the real homeless problem we have in Napa. They may not know about how difficult they have allowed the building process to become, they need to talk to the building industry and find out more and then fix that problem.
This is not just a county of rich people, living in a Disney-like place. It is also the county of people who make this special place work and it is a county of people who are not as fortunate and cannot afford the Disney admission price, they are just as valuable and need a place to live, not in tents.
Our church recently built a tiny house in Tijuana for a family of five; it cost $10,000 for materials, it took 25 people of all ages two full days to complete a 400-square-foot home including painting inside and out. I would live in a house like that and I know many of our homeless would also love a house like that. The Mexican family was very thankful and our church was also blessed by the experience. We can do this here also. Amen.
Jay Michael Gardner