A homeless advocate for Valley’s Edge
I am writing this letter as a lifelong Chicoan, homeless advocate, and affordable tiny home developer who is in favor of Valley’s Edge.
To quote California Senator Scott Wiener (Democrat) “We need more housing of all types, meaning lots more market-rate housing in addition to subsidized housing.”
We have nearly 2,000 subsidized low income housing units in the pipeline here in Chico, which are desperately needed, but these units will not have the impact they should if we are not able to build enough market rate units.
Over the past 15 years the NIMBY’s, No growther’s, and environmentalists have made it so difficult to build housing that we find ourselves in a situation where we have less housing than we have people who need it. You can see this by our near zero vacancy rates and bidding wars on single family houses. PLUS we have about 2% of our population here in Chico who are without housing, so really we have negative vacancy. This low of vacancy is not healthy and is the reason housing costs and the number of homeless are skyrocketing.
There are two ways we get out of this housing crisis; we either build more houses or we make our city/state so miserable to live in that enough people move away. It is hard to believe anyone would actually want the latter, but it sure seams like that sometimes. This is Economics 101 and we either have to increase the supply or reduce the demand.
Let’s assume most want to have an adequate supply of housing, so then the argument becomes what type of housing? My answer is all types. We need more subsidized housing, more entry-level market rate housing, and more McMansions … and everything in between. How does building a million dollar house in the foothills help housing affordability? Because a human lives in that house, and that human needs a roof over their head. Someone buying a house at the upper end of the market is likely selling a lower valued house, so that house then becomes available. This happens all the way down to the point where someone living in an apartment is buying their first house, which creates a space for someone moving out of subsidized housing and into a market rate apartment, and that subsidized unit becomes available for someone living on the streets. Without adequate vacancy in rentals and enough houses for sale, we have a locked-up market and values skyrocket.
Besides the fact that we have an overall housing shortage, we also have a growing gap between subsidized housing and market rate housing. About four years ago I took note of this gap. My initial thought was that I could build a house for less. Long story short, I bought a lot and built a 1,200 square foot 3/2 mostly with my own workforce. My direct costs were more than similar new tract homes selling at that time, so I would have been far better off financially to have just bought a new tract home in town.
This first house taught me some valuable lessons, which lead me to my next build. I bought a larger lot, subdivided it, and built six units that were 300 square feet each. Taking my costs and a modest return on my investment, I was able to lease all six units to CHAT for $600/mo.
As a new player to the development world, my biggest issue is finding land to build on in Chico. I have socially responsible investors willing to do more of these projects, but the buildable land is just not available.
Brandon Slater is a Chico resident who has enjoyed volunteering and working on community service projects with Torres Shelter, Jesus Center, Safe Space, CHAT, and Chico Rescue Mission. He says “As a homeless advocate it is my belief that we as society have an obligation to take care of and provide a minimum level of shelter to the poorest in our community. I have found that there are many organizations in town that are doing great work in this space.”