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Trends aside, affordabiity still an issue for many

Housing affordability is not the pressing issue it was five years ago before housing prices took a 30 percent to 40 percent tumble in Sonoma County. But locals shouldn't assume the problem has been licked.

According to the figures from the California Association of Realtors, 62 percent of Sonoma County households could now afford to buy an entry-level home.

The bad news is that a buyer would still need to put down $30,000 and have a minimum household income of $51,660 to qualify to buy that house — if they can obtain the financing they need.

Then there are the many local residents, some former property owners, who are now competing to find rental housing. The need for creating affordable housing, particularly for those of low- and very-low income residents, is as great as ever.

Keeping with tradition, the Sonoma County Housing Coalition, the sponsor of Affordable Housing Week, which began Monday, issued its annual report this week on how Sonoma County communities are doing in their efforts to create affordable housing.

The report shows that some city programs have slowed significantly due to a sharp decline in building activity, and some projects have been put on hold. Yet one city that's getting plenty of praise this year is Sebastopol, which saw three affordable housing projects completed in 2009 for an overall addition of 67 units. Another 34-unit housing project — a self-help development for first-time low-income buyers — is under way. Meanwhile, Sebastopol has already met its 2014 goals for providing low- and very-low-income housing.

These efforts underscore the important message that the housing crisis has not been resolved in Sonoma County. It's just being redefined by the times.


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