Housing Note from First Sunday of Advent

161127 Press Democrat pages

The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, CA on Sunday November 27, 2016 had a group of articles which I would like to tie together in this post.

Starting with the historian Gaye LeBaron (T1),  she reviews the housing picture over the years in Sonoma County.  The most notable thing for me is her afterthought in which she says,
Much of this ‘looking at the past’ business of mine is celebrating progress, marveling and how we ever get along without so many things … We celebrate progress on so many fronts.”    “Not so with housing. The broad question of shelter.  We have so much left to learn.”
The second article entitled “Seeking to Aid an Aging populace” (A3) highlights the number of residents over the age of 60. There are significant activities going on to identify and support our elders.    My observation is that these efforts are not new because I know I helped in them in the 1980s. I appreciate all of the people today who are still concerned and active in helping the elders of our community.  I am rapidly becoming one.
One of the highlights in the county right now is SHARE Sonoma County, a program affiliated with Petaluma People Services Center which serves the entire County.  SHARE provides home screening, matching, and support.
In response to this article the director of SHARE Sonoma County, Amy Appleton, wrote the following:
“I’m passionate about providing services for our aging population here in Sonoma County, which includes creating affordable housing through home sharing as indicated in your article with Ms. Kaljian.  I’m very grateful for your article and attention to this incredibly vulnerable and growing population.”  
“Ms. Kaljian and Ms. McBride, more than most, know the isolation and vulnerability that exists for many of our aging population. SHARE Sonoma County has created a robust housing solution and our SHARE community continues to grow rapidly (we are in ten cities thus far and expanding). It’s a beautiful process to bring a carefully screened person in need of housing into an aging person’s home, who can help provide support for the owner who otherwise might not be able to remain home safely and thrive.”
The 3rd article, on the front page of the paper, is entitled, “Vacation rentals both a boon and a nuisance”.   On the one hand, after citing and articulating the problem, the article quotes Daniel Sanchez, the government affairs director of the North Bay Association of Realtors. He does not see this is a problem.   He talks about what a good thing it is. This is from a person who is very strongly against  rent control.  He would have individual landlords raise rent as much as they want, and, take inventory off the market for local citizens at the same time.
Below I summarize the county data for the number of rentals, and notably for the taxes lost to these activities if the owners paid their fair share. [Based on the Article.]
” flouted the rules for years by not registering with the county and paying the tax.”
“Supervisors this month approved an agreement with Airbnb requiring the guest-hosting site to collect bed taxes beginning and hand the revenue over to the county.”  [What about the back taxes?]
Number of vacation rental units
Taxes foregone
Sonoma County 2015
Sonoma County 2016
1,333 [+54%]
County including Coastal region
Lodging inventory
Vacation rental houses
3,355 (24%)
$5,300,000 (43%)
$500,000 0 $1,300,000
(or up to $2,800,000 by one estimate)
Petaluma 2015
21 permitted, 100 operating
$19,000 [12%]
$143,000 [88% foregone]
Sonoma extended a ban
47 warnings and 9 citations in 2014;  Kevin Burke, “Rentals can produce up to $4,800 a week in income and there is often a cat-and-mouse game on websites that makes it difficult to pinpoint the owners.”
I cannot understand the County position that identifying and holding accountable the owners, is so hard, since the owners are listed in the County tax rolls. 
The fourth article of notes (A3) is entitled “Building Hope for homeless”.  It describes Harold’s Utilitarian Transitional Shelters (HUTS) project of Homeless Action!.  It is a practical and very specific means to help individuals have a space of their own and get out of the weather.
Not included in the article is a description of the survey recently conducted by the Community Development commission which shows that the people of Sonoma County are strongly in favor of helping individual homeless people and they have a very good sense of what the actual cause of homelessness is. (CDC Homeless Survey conducted September 2016; link when available)
I appreciate the journalism which went into developing all of these stories I hoped for an opinion piece, no wait I just wrote one, which describes how these are all related.
As a community of people we have the knowledge and the energy and the money to address all of these issues if we work together in transparency and in democracy and in community.
A key shortcoming I see in the Press Democrat reporting, on this and other things, is that they don’t include links to key government source documents and web sites which would help us all be more informed.  Similarly, they could add better visual summaries and charts.  I look forward to when they do that.  Positive regards nonetheless.
Credit due to:
Gaye LeBaron, Press Democrat columnist
Staff Writer Clark Mason at 707-521-5214 or clark. mason@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter@clarkmas
Staff Writer Paul Payne at 707-568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ppayne.
 Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 707-521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @srcitybeat.
Gerry La Londe-Berg, poet, MSW 1983
[Transparency note: I am a member of the board of Shared Housing and Resource Exchange (SHARE) California]

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