(BCN) – The Walnut Creek City Council will hear from the city’s homeless task force and the founder of a housing nonprofit about bringing a small “village” of micro-houses to Grace Presbyterian Church, just outside Rossmoor.
The council won’t take any action, but provide input and direction to staff on possible next steps in the process.
A city staff report says “The Bay Area continues to be faced with a housing supply and affordability crisis that has been decades in the making. Over time, the production of housing in the region has not been sufficient to accommodate its growing population and employment.”
The report also cites declining state and federal resources for affordable housing as another major factor in the ongoing housing crisis, which the pandemic has only made worse.
“As a result, the Bay Area has one of the most severe housing shortages of any of the nation’s large metro areas,” it says.
Many cities are turning toward micro-housing, including Oakland, Berkeley, Hayward, and Livermore. Typically, such developments are pre-fabricated and feature communal restrooms and kitchen areas, with all buildings held to state-building and fire standards. Residents are usually screened by partner organizations working to help low-income and homeless people.
Walnut Creek is working with HomeAid of Northern California, Firm Foundation Community (FFCH), and Hope Solutions (formerly Contra Costa Interfaith Housing).
The Walnut Creek concept would feature dwellings ranging from 174 to 225 square feet of living space, on property owned by faith-based establishments – usually in parking lots. The homes would be installed over six to eight weeks, assembled onsite with 10-15-year-leases.
“Each unit would be affixed to a foundation and would provide permanent service-enriched housing for unsheltered individuals and small families (one to two people per unit),” the report says. Monthly rents would not exceed rents that are affordable to households earning up to 50 percent of area median income.
The city’s zoning laws don’t currently cover such housing and would need changing (there are designations for emergency low income and transitional housing), but micro-housing isn’t considered short term). The city would likely either create a new land designation or come up with a new kind of special use permit.
The staff report says, if everything proceeds as planned, the project could officially apply for a development application this fall.
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