On Monday night, Mono County Board of Supervisors candidate, Paul McFarland, appeared before the Eastern Sierra Community Housing (ESCH) Board to discuss housing solutions in the unincorporated area of Mono County.
McFarland, representing the Mono Basin Housing Working Group, advocated for the protection of the existing housing stock, and the creation of a housing trust model—a solution discussed and championed by Mono County locals at the community housing conversations held in June Lake and Lee Vining in late 2023.
“We’re [trying] to figure out how to bring something like The Bridge Program out to the unincorporated part of our community, because it is one home at a time,” said McFarland. “We got into this issue one home and one rental unit at a time. We’ll get out of it one home and one rental unit at a time.”
The Bridge Program, as defined on the Town’s website, “is a partnership between the Town and Mammoth Lakes Housing aimed at increasing the number of affordable ownership units within the Town through the purchase of existing market-rate homes that are then deed restricted and sold to qualified households at a subsidized price.”
McFarland acknowledged the need to avoid duplicative efforts in fundraising, given the limited amount of free capital and grant money to be awarded amongst the county’s existing housing organizations. The Lee Vining local presented the creation of a separate organization, outside of Eastern Sierra Community Housing, that wouldn’t fundraise in competition with ESCH, but rather work in conjunction with existing county programs or steer a stand alone housing trust model.
Importantly, McFarland touched on the need to sustain the current grassroots momentum that’s been captured, countywide.
“There is a groundswell of interest inside the unincorporated part of the community, and the time is now,” said McFarland. “So how do we bring more capacity? Where does the money go? Who holds it? How do we create a strong, collaborative structure to get as much done as possible?”
The challenge ahead lies in defining a clear path forward to remedy the existing housing crisis through collaboration, while avoiding the creation of redundant non-profit entities and government bodies.
Later, the ESCH Board considered a novel fundraising opportunity in the form of a partnership with CardConnect’s “Chip In” program. The project, as presented by Gregg Garfield—CEO of the potential program—would raise passive capital for local nonprofits and initiatives by allowing merchants to donate part of their processing fees back to any Mammoth 501C3 certified organization, or a Chip In pre-certified nonprofit.
The Mammoth Mountain Community Foundation has been a longstanding partner with Chip In. Newer partnership agreements in town can be completed at any time, however, the number of participating merchants, nonprofits, and the scale of those partnerships will ultimately determine the success of revenue generation.
Garfield explained the process behind the fundraising initiative:
“It’s an opportunity to give back a portion of your percentage of credit card processing transactions,” said Garfield. “We offer a program where we meet or beat anybody’s existing processing solution, and donate 25% of our profits to your foundation.”
According to Garfield, over the last 12 years, more than half a million dollars has been raised for the Mammoth Mountain Community Foundation through the participation of individuals in the community. Now, Garfield is hoping to expand that outreach by capturing the participation of Mammoth business owners.
“It benefits the business owner because [upwards] of 90% of the time, we reduce costs.”
And, as Garfield explained, because the donations are made on a recurring basis, it’s a fundraising structure that can be used to sustain recurring initiatives.
“Sounds too good to be true,” joked ESCH President, Kirk Stapp.
The board, in earnest, did raise concerns about the potential heavy lifting of getting local businesses on board, and the feasibility of replacing existing processing solutions.
Garfield responded by highlighting the program’s success in small towns, as it leverages the immediacy of local impact and aligns with businesses’ desires to contribute directly to community needs. Gregory emphasized Chip in’s pledge to continuously work with the community and grow the opportunity organically, while acknowledging that building those relationships and transitioning businesses to a new processing solution takes time.
The Board raised questions about the different terminals available, compatibility with proprietary systems, and voiced concerns over the absence of a direct term of service with the organization.
But Garfield concluded his pitch by emphasizing the tailorability of the program, and assured the Board that there were no stringent requirements or participation minimums on the side of the Town.
“We look at each independent business as its own entity. In 34 years of doing this, I’ve never lost in price,” assured the CEO.
Board member, Tony Perkins, concluded the discussion by suggesting that Chip In might make a donation to Eastern Sierra Community Housing to expedite the installment of the program.
“That would help cover the expenses of the staff time that would be dedicated to the program, and show a little bit of support in addition to what we’re going to help them generate” said Perkins.
The Board did not yet vote as to whether they would support the initiative, but instead, considered the item’s presentation for the purposes of staff direction.