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Rohnert Park selling homeless housing

Rohnert Park is moving forward with a plan to sell five city-owned properties once used to house people climbing out of homelessness after residents complained the transitional homes were not appropriate for their neighborhood.

The city plans to use the proceeds from the sale, expected to be more than $1.7 million, to fund affordable housing projects elsewhere in Rohnert Park.

Advocates for homeless services decried the plan and said the city should turn over the properties to the county Community Development Commission, which runs affordable housing programs.

On a 3-1 vote last week, the City Council directed staff to sell the houses on the open market. Councilman Jake Mackenzie dissented.

The city's redevelopment agency bought the five three- and four-bedroom houses in the city's B Section neighborhood more than 10 years ago, but they have been vacant since the agency was dissolved in 2011. The city pays for ongoing maintenance and has identified $26,000 in repairs to the houses, said Marilyn Ponton, director of development services.

When they were occupied, some low-income tenants caused neighborhood disturbances, according to City Manager Darrin Jenkins. One of the houses received 44 public safety calls in five years, he said.

Jenkins said the city has 1,000 housing units designated as affordable, which is higher per capita than any other city in Sonoma County.

But homeless advocates said the city has not added any affordable housing recently.

"There's a serious lack of affordable housing in our county," said Mike Johnson, CEO of the Committee on the Shelterless. "The city of Rohnert Park can and should do more to help."

Councilwoman Pam Stafford noted that the city has not built any new housing, affordable or not, in the past 20 years. The developers of the University District subdivision, which is expected to break ground this year at the east end of Rohnert Park Expressway, have provided space for 218 affordable apartments.

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