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It’s no surprise, study shows Plumas population aging

While members of the Plumas County Board of Supervisors sent back the Plumas County Planning Commission’s recommendation for the new 2019-2024 General Plan Housing Element for an addition, there was a lot that they found right about the work that occurred.

The housing element is a state required part of the general plan and must be updated on a regular basis.

Planning Director Tracey Ferguson was before supervisors and explained this year’s recommendations from planning commissioners as approved at a special meeting Aug. 29.

Background and process

The housing element provides the framework for existing and projected housing needs throughout all unincorporated areas of Plumas County.

This year, the state provided a consultant to work with Plumas County, at no local cost, to help prepare the document.

Housing elements contain an assessment of housing needs and an inventory of resources and constraints relevant to those needs, according to the document Ferguson presented to supervisors at the regular meeting Oct. 1.

The document also must contain the areas’ goals, quantified objectives and policies relevant to maintenance, preservation, improvement and development of housing.

Programs describing beneficial actions to be done during the planning period and individual timelines are also required. Implementation of policies and how goals will be achieved are part of the housing element.

The housing element must also be consistent with the existing general plan. It must “provide clear policy and direction for making decisions pertaining to zoning, subdivision approval, housing allocations and capital improvements.”

This is the part of the county’s general plan that tries to identify if there is adequate residential sites available for all income levels. This time income levels adds extremely low to traditional very low, low and moderate-income households.

While evaluating housing availability and affordability it must also address the county’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) with an eye toward future growth projections.

Evaluation

Part of the process is comparing what was in the 2009-2014 housing element to a proposed timeframe and implementation.

Looking at a few of the 19 programs listed in the new housing element, under rehabilitation the plan was to continue to use the Rehabilitation Revolving Fund and additional state and federal programs as they came available. These resources include Community Block Grant Program and Farmers Home. The timeframe was for 10 units per year. The status was that the county doesn’t have a revolving fund, but remains interested in reinstating a housing rehabilitation program.

Plumas County Community Development Commission Executive Director Roger Diefendorf told supervisors that his agency is looking to reestablishing its weatherization/housing rehab program.

Under new construction, it was pointed out that new construction has been limited to single-family and manufactured homes. No new apartment complexes have been developed. One of the reasons for this is that the recession slowed development. Recovery has been gradual. To assist this for this new housing element cycle, the affordable housing trust fund and a first-time homebuyer programs have been included.

Rent assistance is another area identified in the last housing element plan. The plan was to continue existing programs and expand them as funding from state and federal sources came available.

One of the main areas for funding is the Section 8 program under the Department of Housing and Urban Development program. This is an annual program through CDC. Diefendorf explained there is plenty of rental assistance money, the problem is lack of housing. Currently Plumas County has 170 active housing vouchers and a waiting list of 370 people.

While many might not consider counseling needs under the housing element, it does exist. CDC provides the services to an average of 150 households per year.

One area that was identified in the 2009-14 housing element that was not successful is the first time homebuyer program. The plan was to refer first time homebuyers to the Regional Council of Rural Council Californian Rural Home Mortgage Finance Authority, commonly known as RCRC, this didn’t occur. For the new housing element planners are committed to providing this opportunity.

Another area identified and will continue is providing camping resources with no time limits. While this was planned, it didn’t come about.

Community profile

“Housing needs are largely determined by population and employment growth,” the new housing element stated.

Between 2010 and 2018 the county’s population in unincorporated areas (everywhere but incorporated city of Portola), declined by 100 people or 0.6 percent. That is from 17,903 in 2010 to 17,803 in 2018. For the same time period the population in Portola went from 2,104 to 1,976 for a 6.1 percent drop. This is about the only information included for Portola in the document.

Current and future housing needs are influenced usually by age characteristics, according to the housing element draft report. Age groups influence lifestyles, family type and size, incomes and housing preferences. “Consequently, evaluating the  age characteristics of a community is important in determining its housing needs.”

Plumas County’s median age in unincorporated areas was 52.1 in 2017. Excluding Portola, the county’s population is getting older with 58.7 percent of the residents aged 45 or older. More than 19 percent of the residents are in the family-forming group between 25 to 44 years old.

A look at the unincorporated population statistics from 2017, 8.8 percent, or 1,465, were aged 0 to 9.

Another 9.5 percent or 1,593 were 10 to 19.

The 20 to 24 year old group totaling 617, or 3.7 percent of the population, represented one of the smaller populations.

Those 25 to 34 years old added up to 1,349 or 8.1 percent of those who lived in Plumas County that year.

Those 35 to 44 years old amount to 11.2 percent, 1,868.

Those 45 to 54 years old totaled 2,055 or 12.3 percent of the total population for unincorporated Plumas areas.

Fifty-five to 59 year-olds totaled 1,484 or 8.9 percent, according to the survey.

Those in the 60 to 64-age range totaled 1,896 or 11.4 percent of the population.

Those 65 to 75 totaled 2,723 or 16.3 percent of the population helping establish the fact that Plumas County’s population is represented by older residents.

There were 1,150 in the 75 to 84 year old range representing 6.9 percent of the total population included in the report.

There were 491 residents in the 85 and older category totaling 2.9 percent of the population.

Employment trends

The job base decreased by 26.1 percent during 2010 to 2017. Construction jobs decreased by 40 percent. Professional and management job opportunities dropped by 43 percent. There was a slight increase in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and mining jobs of 2.2 percent. Manufacturing also increased by 4 percent.

In 2010 there was a total of 8,895 job opportunities in unincorporated areas compared to 6,572 in 2017.

Employment opportunities were the highest in educational services, health care and social assistance jobs. In 2010 there were 1,993 jobs in these areas, but this dropped to 1,438 by 2010 for a 27.8 percent negative change.

Household characteristics

Household refers to the people living in a home whether it’s a family, a single person or people who are unrelated living together. “Family households often prefer single-family homes or manufactured homes to accommodate children, while non-family households generally occupy multifamily apartment type housing,” according to the housing element draft report.

Families made up 58 percent of all households and 20 percent of all households were family households with children under the age of 18.

In 2017 there were 7,388 households. The average size was 2.06 people. There were 4,419, or 59.8 percent of the households, with families. Non-family  households made up 40.2 percent or 2,969.

“Overcrowding occurs when there is more than one person per room (excluding bathrooms and kitchens) and severely overcrowding occurs when there are more than 1.51 persons per room,” according to the research.

Overcrowding often occurs when there are not enough affordable or decent homes available to serve the population needs. According to the 2012-2016 American Community Survey, 111 households were considered overcrowded making up 1.3 percent of all households in unincorporated parts of Plumas County. Thirty-eight households accounting for severely overcrowded conditions. This is only 0.5 percent of the population for that time period.

The California Department of Housing and Community Development annually publishes income limits in each county. This helps determine eligibility for assisted housing programs. This is the most up-to-date information within the housing element survey.

Income limits are based on an area median income (AMI) for $70,700 for a family of four in the area.

Thirty percent of the AMI is in the extremely low-income range in 2019. This is the $0 to $25,750 range. Extremely low earners showed a one-person household making $14,650, two-person household making $21,330, three-person $21,330 and increasing per household size up to eight people for $48,430.

Thirty-one to 50  percent of the AMI is $25,751 to $34,800, and considered very low-income.

Fifty-one to 80 percent of the AMI at $34,801 to $55,700 is considered low-income.

Moderate income is at 81 to 120 percent of AMI at $55,701 to $84,850. And above moderate income is making $84,851 or more per year or above 120 percent of the AMI.

“In an effort to determine an approximate number of extremely low-income households, the county looked at household earning $24,999 or less,” according to the study.

Plumas county has approximately 1,764 extremely low-income households. In 2017, the largest income group earned $50,000 to $74,999. The smallest income group earned more than $150,000 a year. Most households were at the middle of the income range earning $35,000 to $99,000 per year.

The study

The study is a comprehensive one that also includes how many people pay too much for housing based on their incomes.

There is more definite information on senior groups, people with disabilities by disability type; large family information, female-headed households and much more.

The draft plan has not yet been approved by the Plumas County Board of Supervisors. Although Ferguson updated supervisors on highlights of the plan, it was returned to the planning department so an addition and one correction could be made. It will return to supervisors for reconsideration at a later date.

A public hearing was held, as required by law, for the housing element. The public was also given time to speak (see related story).

Supervisor Sherrie Thrall noted that a survey on housing conditions will be needed. “Who will do the survey and who will pay for it and what will we do about it?” she asked Ferguson.

Ferguson said that her job experience includes conducting housing condition surveys. She said that a CDBG technical grant might cover costs. She added that the survey determines residential conditions, what has deteriorated and what is needed. The study provides a baseline for future grants. “It substantiates need,” she explained.

Ferguson said that she is not advocating hiring a consultant for the housing condition survey. She said it could be done in-house.

Thrall also took this time to say that the previous housing rehab program “was a nightmare. I’m a little bit hesitant to jump right back into that.” Supervisors Lori Simpson and Kevin Goss said she could speak for them also. Ferguson left it at a wait and see opportunity.

Although the California Environmental Quality Act applies to the study and is separate, a negative declaration was requested and granted for the housing element.

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