The property across the street from Cotati’s Smart Station on the corner of E Cotati and Ryan Lane isn’t much to look at; a bit of dry grass, flat empty lot--observant locals might even see a tree. But looks can be deceiving because, as of the Cotati City Council meeting on the night of Oct. 13, the land is now the location for a new plot of affordable housing.
And that’s actual affordable housing—as in, housing you can afford to buy. Most think of ‘reduced rent’ when they hear the term, but for the Jaime Lane Development it’s slightly more literal. It means the five-unit project will cap its price, in perpetuity, at below market rate.
The house next door goes for a mill. Then Jaime Lane can’t go above 700 thousand. That sort of thing.
It’s meant to act as a helping hand for young, working-class families, offering an in-road to home ownership, whereas they might otherwise be priced out of the area. Nobody wants to see their kids move out of state, but it’s an increasingly common story; a 2018 Berkley IGS poll found, 80 percent of 18-39-year-old adults considering leaving California cited housing costs as their chief reason. High rents bleed us of the future, it seems.
Of course, building the development won’t be cheap. Luckily Cotati doesn’t seem to foot too much of the bill. $80,000, by the city’s accounts, and most of that for ‘pre-development costs’ to the Sonoma Land Trust. The bulk of the cash will come from the California Housing Association, $875,000 and the Sonoma County Community Development Commission (CDC), $100,000. The Housing Land Trust of Sonoma County (HLT) will take the property over following transfer to ensure long-term affordability.
“Building projects are one of those things which feel like they take forever. It’s always one step forward, two steps back. And this one’s been going on for some time,” Council member Susan Harvey said, referring to the Jaime Lane Development’s 16-year-long history. “It’s wonderful to see it take the final step forward.”
The council was quiet as they approved the agreement, one by one, in unanimous consent. The city expects the developer to break ground in spring of 2021. Soon that empty old lot won’t be empty. It will hold condos, and families—opportunity, for decades and decades to come.
“One item on the agenda. I’m glad we got it right,” Vice Mayor John Moore said.