Thursday, June 5, 2003
Rep. Sam Farr''s yearlong effort to get affordable housing built on Fort Ord may finally pay off. Following two meetings last week, the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) is considering making the abandoned base a special tax district, and pooling the money to build housing.
Michael Houlemard, executive officer of FORA, presented the results of a new study in two town-hall meetings on May 28 and 29. The study gives several recommendations on how FORA and local districts can alleviate the disparity between local families'' income and the cost of housing.
The meetings were in preparation for a critical gathering on July 11, when two committees that worked on the study will present their findings to the FORA Board of Directors. The board is expected to adopt an affordable housing strategy at that meeting.
In its report, the Clark Group, which spent about three months researching the matter, proposes key strategies for ensuring housing for Monterey County''s workforce.
The main strategy is to establish a housing and community land trust, which would combine resources from the surrounding communities to support developers and buyers in their quest.
The Clark Group recommends that a tax increment pool be created to fund housing trusts. Money from the real estate transfer tax, sales tax and developer fees will be directed into this pool to fund housing projects and assist buyers. As the properties'' value increases and property taxes are generated, that money would also be pooled for Fort Ord housing.
At the May 29 town-hall meeting, Houlemard he intends to increase the percentage of affordable housing in new developments on Fort Ord. FORA currently requires that 20 percent of new housing be affordable.
Last year, Farr caused a ruckus when he threatened to block the transfer of land to FORA unless the agency could provide more affordable housing.
With pressure from Farr''s office FORA is attempting to "create [the] organizational structure," Houlemard said.
During the meeting, many community members showed their support for establishing a trust on Fort Ord. A "trust could work to bridge the differences between the jurisdictions," said local architect Ray Parks.
"I support the investment of affordable housing 100 percent, and I support the permanence of that investment," said Elizabeth Panetta of LandWatch Monterey County. "It is our responsibility to create the maximum amount of affording housing now."
Alec Arago, district director of Farr''s office, said his office is "encouraged by the Clark Study [and] glad to see that someone has been able to summarize this issue."
Arago said Farr supports "sustaining the permanence of affordability [by] creating a housing trust."
The issue has come a long way in the past year. Since the land was turned over to FORA last April, Farr has been pushing for 50 percent of the land on Fort Ord to be affordable. Farr threatened to halt land transfers from the federal government to local cities if not enough of the land was developed for low income families.
Local officials maintained that the added costs of infrastructure and site cleanup would make market-rate houses necessary for development.
In September of last year, Farr presented a study by the Housing Authority to the FORA Board, revealing that it is possible to build affordable housing on Fort Ord. In search of a solution, Farr pushed FORA to consult with the Clark Group.
Recently, in a letter addressed to Houlemard, Farr asked that 30 percent of the housing units be reserved for workforce housing (moderate-income families) and 20 percent reserved for affordable housing (low to very low income families).
Farr also wants FORA to give preference to local buyers and renters. Lastly, Farr asks FORA to "create a housing trust that would provide financial assistance to first-time home buyers."