RP faces difficult housing dilemma
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By Jud Snyder  January 25, 2013 12:00 am

The subject of affordable housing in Rohnert Park hasn’t been discussed very much at the city council level these past few months. But it arose at Tuesday night’s council meeting in city hall.

It began last year when Governor Jerry Brown wiped out Community Development Commission (CDC) programs in all California cities and took their funding to alleviate the huge state budget deficit. With the disappearance of RP’s CDC, there went the city’s control of affordable housing programs.

To complicate matters, (Committee for the Shelterless (COTS), based in Petaluma, told the RP Council it could no longer afford to maintain the five transitional homes it has in RP for homeless people.

The city has vacant buildings on Avram Ave., including the former city hall at the corner of Commerce Blvd., and a pair of two-story vacant office buildings at 100 and 120 Avram Ave. All three, at one time, were slated for conversion to affordable housing. So was 435 Southwest Blvd., where the former fire and police station used to be.

So, the fate of the five transitional homes COTS was supporting and the vacant buildings on
Avram Ave. west of the current city hall and one on Southwest Blvd. are in need of a decision.

Linda Babonis, RP’s economic development director, recommended the council should move the parcels to the Sonoma County Community Development Commission (SCCDC).

Babonis also noted the city no longer has funds for redevelopment. Research has convinced her the city needs a Housing Technician consultant to work out a sensible solution. This would cost the city about $33,600 a year.

RP has to build affordable housing, even though the need has apparently abated, even in these economic recession days. It borrowed money from the state’s 2007 Housing Tax Allocation Board (TAB) for affordable housing.

She said the council could use TAB funds to hire a consultant “to fund a qualified consultant” to come up with a plan for the vacant property the city owns. He or she could create an appraisal value for the four properties and the city could sell them at market value. The city could also sidestep rules by “defeasing” TAB regulations  “to allow the city to allow uses on these sites other than affordable housing.”

But the city council apparently needed further information before making any firm decision and delayed any action on Babonis’s recommendations. No vote was taken.

On the five transitional homes COTS can longer afford to maintain, the city could take them over. But Babonis noted the “city would be responsible for insurance, major repairs and possible lawsuits.”

Not mentioned Tuesday night was the Graton Tribe’s casino to build affordable housing for its planned 600 casino employees.

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