Angels Camp cuts fees for affordable housing projects in half

Scott Behiel, executive director for Habitat for Humanity Calaveras, right, addresses the Angels Camp City Council on June 18.

In a meeting Tuesday night, the Angels Camp City Council cut fees for affordable housing by nearly 50%, with notably large reductions in costs of water and sewer capacity and traffic impact mitigation.

The city eliminated nearly $9,000 in water capacity fees in anticipation of state grant funding and lowered sewer capacity fees to $8,697 – a 7% reduction.

Traffic impact mitigation fees for extremely low income, very low income and low income housing units were reduced by 60%, 50% and 40%, respectively. Those had originally amounted to $9,598 for extremely low and very low income and $6,176 for low income developments.

In public comment, Scott Behiel, executive director for Habitat for Humanity Calaveras, said he appreciated council “sharpening their pencils” on affordable housing by cutting fees, but requested that the city waive sewer and traffic for 29 General Plan-mandated units for extremely low income residents (making $15,000 or less annually).

State grants and donations fund half of the nonprofit’s projects, and the rest is paid for by the new homeowner, meaning any savings in upfront costs would be passed directly onto the homeowner.

“Without fees going to zero, it definitely jeopardizes those 29 units,” Behiel told councilmembers.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Behiel said funding these projects can be complex, because “The more somebody earns, the more they can pay on mortgage. So when people are making $15,000 per year, we can’t charge them more than $400 a month.” That cost covers homeowners insurance and property taxes, in addition to mortgage. “We’re almost giving these things away for free.”

Behiel has plans to build 80 to 100 units on the north side of Angels Camp, just off Highway 49 on Copello Drive, a majority of which will be workforce housing. That’s estimated to break ground as early as December of 2020, pending city sewer and water improvements. The aforementioned 29 units would fall under that project as a condominium.

“There is a cost in waiting,” he said in the meeting.

John Allen of John Allen Construction, another prospective affordable housing developer based in San Andreas, told the City Council they “have done leaps and bounds” with the reductions, adding that he’s “not ready to bail yet,” so long as negotiations can continue.

“This will take us a big step in the right direction (on affordable housing) … Can we go further? Yes, but at the moment, no,” said Amy Augustine, the city planner for Angels Camp.

Councilmembers discussed conducting a single rate study for multiple developers to eventually bring fees down for specific projects under a development agreement, concluding that it could take several months.

“That will take staff time, and I’m talking months,” City Administrator Melissa Eads said.

Staff was instructed to bring back a timeframe and cost for such a study by the next meeting.

The City Council also adopted a flat fee of $65 for business license holders to cover the cost of annual fire safety inspections required under state code.

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Reporter

Davis graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Environmental Studies. He covers environmental issues, agriculture, fire and local government. Davis spends his free time playing guitar and hiking with his dog, Penny.

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