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Grand jury lauds Placer County for work on affordable housing

From Bay Area to Sacramento region: ‘My house back home is $2 million dollars’

Recent homebuyer Marie Diaz inspects her new home in El Dorado Hills on Wednesday, June 13, 2018. Diaz is one of many who are selling their Bay Area homes for more affordable homes in the Sacramento area.
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Recent homebuyer Marie Diaz inspects her new home in El Dorado Hills on Wednesday, June 13, 2018. Diaz is one of many who are selling their Bay Area homes for more affordable homes in the Sacramento area.

Placer County is making big strides in providing affordable housing, but more work needs to be done, according to a grand jury report released on Wednesday.

"The county has taken positive steps to address the issue of affordable housing," said the county grand jury, an impartial watchdog group tasked with investigating facets of local government and citizen complaints.

Affordable housing has long been a problem for Placer County, partly due to the high cost of land there.

In 2017, the Placer County Community Development Resource Agency released a business plan that made affordable housing a priority. Plans are currently under way to build affordable units at the DeWitt government center, and the county Board of Supervisors recently hired an outside consultant to provide additional suggestions for dealing with the issue.

While commending the county on those efforts, the grand jury made it clear much more is needed to provide housing that can be obtained at 30-40 percent of a household's monthly income.

One problem the grand jury highlighted was the in-lieu fee that developers can pay the county as an alternative to building affordable housing units. The county uses those funds to pay for another entity to build affordable housing units.

The grand jury noted that the county currently does not have any consistent formula for determining the in-lieu fee developers pay. The result is that developers across Placer County often pay widely varying fees. And nearly $1 million in such fees already collected has not yet been designated for specific affordable housing projects.

The grand jury recommended the county create a consistent formula to keep this from happening in the future, and, when possible, have developers stick to the formula requiring that 10 percent of the units they build be classified as affordable.

To reach this goal, the jury suggested that the county simplify the process developers follow to incorporate affordable housing into their planned units.

The grand jury also recommended that the county provide a map of properties available for affordable housing development, and facilitate forums that focus on local developments and affordable alternatives.

The jury requested a response to these recommendations from various county government officials, including county Executive Officer Todd Leopold and the Placer County Board of Supervisors.

"We'll be taking due time to thoroughly review the recommendations to facilitate the board's response," said Chris Gray-Garcia, the acting director of communications and public affairs for Placer County.

Officials have until Sept. 30 to respond.

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