Diverse Housing in Albany?
By Catherine Sutton and Alexa Hauser
Albany is required to plan for more housing of every kind, but especially for people with very low income. As founding members of the community-based Diverse Housing Working Group, the two of us bring our Transition Town perspective to helping to establish housing policies for the next eight years. We invite you to join in, expressing what you would like to see and helping to bring into existence housing in Albany for those most in need of a safe and comfortable place to live.
The Diverse Housing Working Group (DHWG) is made up of individual Albany residents and representatives of various community organizations, including the Albany Chamber of Commerce, Albany Neighbors Helping Neighbors, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, the Solano Avenue Association, Solano Community Church, Sycamore Congregational Church, Temple Beth El, and Transition Albany. Because DHWG members believe that a strong community includes people from all walks of life and income levels, we come together to advocate for inclusion and implementation of policies and actions to support diversity of housing resources—including housing for people with low, very low, and no income—in the 2015-2023 Housing Element.
By January 31, the City must adopt a new Housing Element, so the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council are in the final stages of considering the content of this part of the General Plan. The draft Housing Element has been forwarded to California’s Housing and Community Development Department for feedback, and DHWG is sponsoring a series of community forums to inform and collect input from interested members of the public. You’ll find the draft Housing Eleement as it currently stands at this link: http://albany2035.org/housing-element-update/
The first forum, held at the end of October, focused on housing production. After providing input on density issues such as the impact of increased height and traffic and the features of senior housing and housing for persons with disabilities we would like to see, we learned about mechanisms for funding housing for low income residents, such as tax credits, in lieu fees for developers, density bonuses, use of special funds from the State for housing, and land trusts. We also considered how zoning creates constraints or facilitates development. We learned about how nexus studies can be used to demonstrate the need for housing that is affordable to those with low incomes.
Additional issues raised by participants included attending to parking and traffic impacts and ways to meet transportation needs of people without cars; the need for establishing zoning changes within the next year; rapid, cost effective ways to provide desirable low cost housing; leverage relatively small amounts of public money to facilitate non-profit development of low cost housing; additional incentives for non-profit developers, and establishing a network to connect people with excess housing and specific needs to those without housing with skills to meet those needs.
Upcoming forums will address special needs housing (November 18), elimination of housing constraints and housing conservation (December 2),
and fair housing (December 16). (We had to submit our last comments by December 10). All forums will be held 7:00-9:00 PM in the Parish Hall of St. Alban’s Church 1501 Washington Avenue, corner of Curtis. The Parish Hall is on the second floor; there is an elevator.
Plans for the Special Needs Housing Forum include exploration of four overlapping populations—seniors, people living with disabilities, people with extremely low incomes, and people experiencing homelessness—and guest Elaine de Coligny, Executive Director of Everyone Home, who has a unique perspective on the most effective ways to help people who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of losing their homes. You can watch a 15-minute video of Elaine presenting about the efficacy (or not) of emergency shelters to the League of Women Voters here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYl2gpmuG3E
Please come out to any and all of these events and help shape Albany’s future with us centered on the Permaculture ethics of Earth care, people care, and fair share. If you want to be added to the DHWG email group to receive information and updates about public events and/or DHWG meetings, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.