By Deb Murphy
The Mammoth Lakes Town Council approved $125,000 for two housing proposals at last Wednesday’s meeting. The funding had been allocated in the Town’s budget specifically for housing.
The funding was split between the local Chamber of Commerce and Mammoth Lakes Housing. Twenty-four thousand will go for the first year of the Chamber’s three-year workforce housing program. The Chamber will be putting up half of the $149,000 cost of the program.
The balance, $101,000, will provide down payment assistance on two homes in the Middle Income Home Buyer Assistance Program. Those two homes will end up in MLH’s inventory of deed-restricted houses.
Middle income is defined as 80 to 120-percent of the area’s Average Median Income. For Mammoth Lakes, the range comes to $68,200 to $97,450 for a one-person household to a four-person family, respectively. That range was identified as underserved in the Town’s recent Housing Needs Assessment.
The deed restriction puts a cap on appreciation in line with the growth in the AMI. It also gives MLH first right of refusal to purchase back the property to give the organization an opportunity to maintain the restriction.
The Chamber proposal is a little more complex, focusing on matching employees to available housing and incentives to flip short-term rentals to long-term rentals. The Chamber would serve as a central website for roommate matching, a database of housing appropriate for the program. In addition, the program would develop funding for renter assistance and property management subsidies. The program would also establish an investment pool for business owners to purchase housing to beef up the affordable housing stock.
The bait for owners to switch from short-term to long-term rentals is rent guarantees and property management.
Councilmember John Wentworth opened the discussion with the recommendation to split up the already allocated $125,000 between the two programs. Kirk Stapp wanted to fully-fund both programs, citing a record-setting $3,000,000 in Transient Occupancy Taxes for the month of January. Wentworth explained his recommendation would, basically, fully fund the programs since the Chamber’s program had a three-year run. The Council could come back during the next fiscal year and continue to contribute to the program.
The only real question came from Bill Sauser. “We need to build capacity,” he said. “We’re spending money but not adding” to the housing inventory. Wentworth’s response: The Chamber’s program was the quickest way to come up with a partial solution to workforce housing.
His motion passed unanimously.