County of Placer workers struggling to afford a home will soon have a new option to make their housing dreams come true.
The county’s Workforce Housing Preservation Program will pay homeowners to deed restrict their properties so that only local workers can purchase or rent them. The program would provide qualifying home buyers a funding source that could be used for a down payment or renovations. The program would also be eligible for recently constructed housing that is deed restricted for local worker occupancy.
Guidelines for the new program were approved unanimously Tuesday by the county Board of Supervisors, allowing a soft launch to proceed this year.
The program is modeled on Vail, Colorado’s, InDEED program that was developed in response to rising housing costs and limited housing availability for local workers, similar to eastern Placer County where almost 90% of homes are owned by second homeowners. Since its inception in 2017, Vail has secured local housing by purchasing deed restrictions on more than 140 units, and the program has since been replicated in the towns of Frisco and Breckenridge, Colorado.
The Workforce Housing Preservation Program has two components – one for eastern Placer County modeled more closely after Vail’s and the other for the entire county to allow housing developers to fund deed restrictions as another option to satisfy their affordable housing obligations.
“We’ve had such incredible support for this from our businesses, our employees and our overall community. Because what we’ve seen is that the loss of full-time, year-round residents has resulted in compounding issues in our community,” said District 5 Supervisor Cindy Gustafson. “When you think about the fabric of the community, often those middle-income earners are young professionals, the ones volunteering in the schools, and as little league coaches and soccer coaches. We’ve lost so much of that in our community. With this program, without building new, we are using existing homes to help deal with these impacts. It really is such a benefit.”
Participant eligibility for the countywide program is capped in unincorporated Placer County at 120% of the average median income – or about $103,000 for a family of four. Participants must work at least 30 hours per week at an employment site within 20 miles of the deed-restricted residence.
In eastern Placer County, where housing costs are especially high in its tourism-driven economy, participants must make equal to or less than 245% of the average median income to quality for a single-family unit, or 220% for a multi-family unit – about $211,000 and $189,000 for a family of four, respectively. They must also work at least 30 hours a week at an employment site within the boundaries of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.
The deed restriction payments will be decided on a case-by-case basis with each application. All participants must qualify for and secure independent financing for the home purchase. In all cases, deed restrictions will remain in place for 55 years, with the 55-year term renewing upon each sale or transfer of the home.
The county anticipates launching the program in spring 2021.
To initially fund the program, the board approved $250,000 in program funding from the county general fund and a $250,000 allocation of transient occupancy tax revenue that had been reserved for housing and transportation. County staff anticipate the program will eventually operate as a public-private partnership, with area employers and other organizations also impacted by the housing crisis anticipated to help fund it.
At full implementation, Placer plans to buy 50 new deed restrictions a year – 40 in eastern Placer and 10 in the unincorporated county – at an expected cost of $3 million annually.