(Sierra Wave Media asked Pam Hennarty, Mammoth Lakes Housing Director, to respond to a website comment that accused the housing program of allowing “illegal aliens” to stack up occupants in workforce housing, among other complaints. Following is her response.)
Mammoth Lakes Housing provides affordable homes to people who live and work in the Town of Mammoth Lakes. There are several misconceptions in the community regarding our rental and for sale properties. I would like to address some of these concerns. With regard to rental property, Mammoth Lakes Housing is required to follow Federal Fair Housing Laws. Fair Housing Laws do not allow MLH to inquire about a person or families legal status. The Federal Government is responsible for the illegal immigration issues and are also responsible for the laws that prohibit this organization from asking about that status. MLH provides homes to people who serve our community. Regardless of how someone came to live in Mammoth, every member of this community deserves a safe, decent, affordable place to live.
Many of the units that MLH owns and operates were funded with State and Federal grants that come with very specific occupancy and monitoring standards. Mammoth Lakes faced overcrowding in many units prior to the development of units by Mammoth Lakes Housing. Rents were at an unaffordable level to the many service working families in this community. We have worked to solve this problem and we do not allow it in our units. We allow 2 people per bedroom. We have on-site managers who are on the property daily, who watch cars, and who is coming and going. We also require each year that each tenant certify their household size.
Mammoth Lakes Housing offers home buyers multiple options including the very successful homebuyer assistance program, and the option to purchase a below market deed restricted unit. Real estate is not affordable. Prices have come down, but so have wages and job opportunities. Deed restricted housing is still a viable option for many households. The California Department of Real Estate prohibits restricting the sale of a home beyond terms that are agreed to at the time of purchase, additionally, if a buyer were to agree to restrictions there must be very specific conditions that must be met in order for the restrictions to be lifted. These State regulations are applicable to affordable housing units. Over the years there have been many different deed restrictions variations that have been used to restrict property.
In the early days of affordable housing in Mammoth Lakes the restrictions did not have strenuous requirements and as the economy shifted several of the higher income homes had depreciated along with the market rate housing and the deed restriction value was above market rate value. In those instances it did not make sense for MLH to repurchase the unit and while market rates had declined significantly from purchase prices it could have resulted in a windfall to the homeowner, although with market conditions it seems unlikely. Mammoth Lakes Housing, in 2009 worked closely with our affordable housing attorneys to strengthen these restrictions including language that requires any potential windfall to be repaid to the jurisdiction for use in the affordable housing programs. The California Department of Real Estate requires that we lift deed restrictions if certain conditions are met.
Mammoth Lakes Housing, Inc.
P.O. Box 260
587 Old Mammoth Road #5
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546