At The Parcel workshop held Tuesday evening, project developer Andrea Clark of the Pacific Companies guessed The Parcel wouldn’t accommodate its first residents until 2023-2024.
Which means, the local housing shortage promises to become even more acute in the short-term.
However, there are several local entities currently working on alleviating the housing crunch, each taking a different angle, from expanding the existing housing base to down-payment assistance for prospective homebuyers.
In this story, we’ll examine what three housing advocates are working on in Mammoth Lakes.
In March 2019, Mammoth Lakes Town Council authorized the expenditure of $150,000 over three years so that the local Chamber of Commerce could hire a workforce housing coordinator.
That person’s mission: Create a marketplace matching prospective landlords and tenants via its website, www.mammothworkforcehousing.org
Curtis Shapiro, born and raised in Mammoth, was hired for the job, and started last June. The website went live in October, 2019.
And within the past four months, the initiative has really gained a foothold.
Since July 1, 198 prospective renters have signed up through the website. Of those, the Chamber has completed background checks on 75 and made 11 successful matches.
Which may not seem like a lot, but when a typical workforce housing unit costs $450,000 to build, one can see the value of maximizing the use of existing housing stock.
Overall, the program has facilitated 16 matches since its inception.
Shapiro manages the website and the social media for the site, and is always on the hunt for new listings. This summer, the Chamber mailed out 4,800 flyers to local homeowners, yielding 36 responses.
Many of the inquiries were
from homeowners trying to gauge the opportunity cost of fixing up their properties to rent.
“Many didn’t even know there was a housing issue in Mammoth Lakes,” said Shapiro.
Six of those 36 have ultimately been converted to an active rental.
Do the math and it’s daunting. 6/4800 amounts to a conversion rate of a little over a tenth of one percent.
Especially when you’re losing stock seemingly as quickly as you gain it.
Shapiro said he can anecdotally count 2-3 instances over the past few months where local workforce was passed over for a long-term rental by out-of-towners of greater means.
He told one story where two nurses had a place lined up, but lost it to a Southern Californian who offered to pay 12 months rent up front.
Competition for housing stock from out-of-towners has been an increasingly impactful issue, said Shapiro.
Glenn Hinkel, who’s owned property in Mammoth for more than twenty years, is one very satified customer of Shapiro’s. “They sent me 7-8 vetted candidate applications. I went through them and made a choice. It was a totally easy process. Too easy. I was impressed.”
Hinkel commended Shapiro for his responsivenes.
And ultimately signed an 8-yearc resident to a year lease at a satisfactory price (though some attempted to bribe him with additional money if he’d accept their application. He turned it down. “I don’t want to gouge people,” he said.)
The rise of the ADU
Nolan Bobroff is the Town’s Housing Coordinator, working under the umbrella of the Community Development Department.
One of the components of Bobroff’s job is trying to figure out how to incorporate/incentivize ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units), otherwise known as “Granny” units.
Bobroff said the state has relaxed standards on ADUs in recent years (there were three ADU-related bills passed by the California legislature in 2019).
The effect of these legislative changes include exceptions to parking requirements (if the home is located within a half-mile of a transit stop – most of Mammoth) as well as allowing ADUs to encroach into setback areas.
For example, said Bobroff, say you already have full lot coverage on a single-family lot. According to state law, you could add an 800-square foot attached or detached ADU.
Sheet: What do the neighbors think about that?
Bobroff: They don’t love it, but that’s state law.
And that’s really the challenge for Bobroff. First, it’s to amend Town code to come into alignment with state directives (An agenda bill is scheduled to come before Mammoth’s Planning and Economic Development Commission in January, 2021). But second, and more important, how does one make relaxed development standards and incentivizing ADUs stick? What’s to say a homeowner won’t build out an ADU, rent it for a mandated period to fulfill a requirement, and then take it off the rental market, enjoying the extra space he/she has created?
Whatever the angle, the creation of ADUs has become increasingly popular of late. As of a few years ago, Bobroff said applications for ADUs were rare. These days? Ten applications for permits have been submitted within the last year, with three having received a Certificate of Occupancy.
A less impactful (at least to the neighbors) form of the ADU which also dovetails with Curtis Shapiro’s program is the development of “Interior” ADUs.
As Bobroff explained, a homeowner can carve out an ADU within the home so long as the space has a basic kitchen, a lockable door and an exterior entrance.
“We get so many inquiries, even in passing [by homeowners wanting to know what they can/can’t do with their property]. But very often, a full-time tenant living on a property [used as a second home] becomes a win-win,” said Bobroff.
MLH offers down-payment assistance
Mammoth’s Town Council recently gave Mammoth Lakes Housing the go-ahead to launch a down-payment assistance program.
Mammoth Lakes Housing Executive Director Patricia Robertson said MLH will offer up to a maximum of $50,000 in down-payment assistance to those who have not owned a home in the previous three years. There are a few caveats/exemptions to this, one being divorce.
There is $100,000 total available in the kitty. The program will be administered via lottery.
The assistance comes in the form of a zero interest loan, which will be recorded on behalf of the Town as a promissory note and deed of trust.
The assistance will also come with a residency requirement and a deed restriction – what one would be able to sell the unit for would be capped, tied to local AMI (Area Median Income) growth.
The rationale being that this would maintain affordability of the property.
Buyers will be required to put down 10% of their own money in any transaction.
Further, the program is restricted to those making 120% or less of current AMI.
Example: The 120% AMI calculation for a household of four is $97,450.