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Solving The Sonoma Valley Housing Crisis


Solving The Sonoma Valley Housing Crisis

By Thomas Martin

The Sonoma Valley Housing Group, representing both Sonoma’s eastside Methodist Church parishioners and Springs’ residents presented a petition and plea for assistance at the Springs Community Alliance meeting (1/15/16). The petition asks the Sonoma City Council and Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to declare a “housing State of Emergency and take every possible step to solve it!” 

Dave Ransom, Frank Windes, and Mario Castillo laid out a tale of the housing crisis that plagues not only the Springs, but elders living on Sonoma’s eastside. In fact, it is a story of a shortage of affordable housing, evictions, rising rents, and resulting homelessness across the community, county, and state. 

Ransom announced that the Sonoma Valley Housing Group Panel found that there has been a significant increase in evictions in Sonoma Valley. Ransom said that home rents have risen in Sonoma “40% in four years!” He claimed the same circumstance impacts people living in mobile home parks. 

Mario Castillo described overcrowding caused by rent increases. He told how homes are in disrepair and unsafe, but people won’t complain for fear of eviction or rent increases. The going rate of a two bedroom, two bath home is $2,000 per month. The cost of living pressures have caused families to move in together in unhealthy circumstances. Others have moved from the area and commute to work. 

Who is homeless? Castillo pointed out that the folks living along Sonoma Creek aren’t the only homeless. When families are forced to combine under one roof one or more of those families is essentially homeless.  

Resident Reactions

Those present, renters and landlords, raised a multiplicity of questions about the petition and what might result if adopted. Some of the issues that raised most concerns and in some cases, objections were: 

Rent Control: Does rent control apply to single units? From dialogue apparently not. Rent control has the effect of limiting supply of housing as people sell their properties or raise rents in advance of the imposition of controls. Rent control was not a concept everyone supported. 

Build More Units: Several speakers spoke to the high cost of County permits that was a disincentive for prospective builders. Modify zoning ordinances to allow existing structures to be utilized like guest houses and extra rooms. At the same time enforce rules to reduce vacation rentals. 

Environmental Choices: People move to Sonoma to be out of a crowded urban environment. Why build more homes? 

Housing Trusts: Look to ways the environmental community has set aside large tracts of land in perpetuity and apply the principle for housing development. It would require investors with large sums of capital and possibly a low expectation for a rate of return. 

A Macro Problem: The housing crisis is so large that petitioning two local entities will not solve the overall crisis. There is need for action by the State and Federal Governments to finance more public Housing with low interest loans. The State should reinstate the Redevelopment Programs eliminated during the economic downturn. 

Low wages:  It was generally agreed without objections that low wages place a large portion of the population at risk by not being able to pay increased rents. 

In summary, the small group of fifty or more Springs’ residents grappled with large issues of rent control, land use, financing, property rights, human rights, wages and standards of living. We will hear more about these matters in coming days, weeks, months. The conversation has started. 

Those interested in working with the Sonoma Housing Group or learn more about their program should contact: Dave Ransom ( or Mario Castillo (