Town Manager Dan Holler recently argued in the Sheet, 12/26, “If you look at the last Housing Element discussion, it says we’ll need about 1,000 units of workforce housing [at build-out]. That would mean everything we’d build in Mammoth would need to be affordable housing; we’d never build middle class housing or upper middle class housing again in town … The question is, if you don’t look beyond your [Mammoth’s] four square miles, do you ever address the workforce housing need fully?”
You’re right Dan, developers will never build affordable “middle class or upper middle class housing” when building high-end second homes and condos ensures a greater profit. It also might be appropriate to share with the community that 90 percent of Mammoth’s future workforce employees will be low and very low wage earners, as outlined in the fee nexus study that Council adopted July 1, 2015.
It’s also worth noting that the town’s 2011 workforce housing Needs Assessment identified an affordable housing deficit of 170 units. At build-out, it is estimated that Mammoth Lakes may need approximately 1,250 workforce housing units to house its workers. MMSA’s base lodge development is not included in the 1,250-units assessment nor are the impacts of a potential redevelopment of Main Street.
The Town Manager’s looking “beyond” Mammoth’s four square miles for affordable housing solutions will inevitably encounter a few obstacles: Mono County and other communities have their own housing requirements as required by the state. The largest source of grant funding for workforce housing requires a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Those grants are not available for regional solutions that increase travel miles and gas emissions. There is also a lack of infrastructure regionally—water, sewer, roads, etc., which will increase the cost of developing regional workforce homes.
It’s also worth noting that a proposal to construct an affordable housing project in Crowley Lake ran into strong local opposition based on water availability, aesthetics, and other considerations. “Other considerations” includes the fact that regional communities are reluctant to absorb Mammoth Lakes’ workforce overflow.
In a back-of-an-envelope analysis, in order to fully meet Mammoth’s housing needs regionally (without Shady Rest), utilizing appropriately zoned and developable pieces of land large enough to accommodate multifamily workforce housing as outlined in Mono County and Bishop’s Housing Elements, the Town Council needs to start purchasing land south of Big Pine. Which raises the question: Why would the County Supervisors embrace locating Mammoth’s workforce housing in the county when the Town Council recently replaced its inclusionary housing requirement with a reduced in-lieu housing mitigation fee, knowing full well that there is a lack of land zoned, available, or affordable for workforce housing? The Council also continues to underfund Measure 2002A (by app. $327,000 annually) which Mammoth voters approved as a funding source for workforce housing within the community.
Town Manager Holler recently acknowledged that the Shady Rest property owners are requesting modifications to the Shady Rest parcel, which is currently zoned for 55 moderate income single-family residences and 117 very low-, low-, and moderate income multifamily units. Shady Rest is the last piece of land currently zoned on which workforce housing can be developed within Mammoth Lakes.
Holler further acknowledged that he didn’t believe Town Council was in unanimous agreement that workforce housing was the best use for the Shady Rest parcel without noting that the current owners purchased Shady Rest knowing it was zoned for affordable housing. Why would the Council consider rezoning it (a request that was thwarted in 2004)?
With the potential loss of Shady Rest for affordable housing; the loss of the inclusionary housing ordinance; the current lack of land zoned, available, and affordable for workforce housing within Mammoth; the annual underfunding of Measure 2002A; and the Council’s delusional embrace of utilizing existing condo units as workforce housing; the Council just might want to ask the County Supervisors if they support accommodating Mammoth’s workforce given the fact that the Town Council’s policies inhibit addressing affordable housing in Mammoth.