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Williams complex seen as step toward addressing housing gap

January 24, 2018

A 32-unit affordable housing project for seniors, slated to open its doors in Williams around the beginning of March, is considered by officials as only helping to solve a small part of a larger housing issue.

Gustavo Becerra, executive director with the Regional Housing Authority, which serves Nevada, Sutter, Yuba, and Colusa counties, said the $9.8 million Stony Creek Phase II development on Marguerite Street is about 85 percent complete. Stony Creek, which was first conceptualized in 2013, will provide much-needed one-to-two bedroom units for seniors over the age of 62.

“With any type of project, a market study was conducted to gauge the need,” Becerra said. “The market study definitely showed there was the need for senior housing. But right now, all segments need affordable housing. Families, supportive services, veterans, farmworkers, not just seniors.”

Becerra said the issue is not just contained to the four counties the authority serves, but a “crisis” affecting every racial and economic demographic throughout the state.

The statewide need creates a situation where bidding for grants becomes increasingly competitive and harder to attain, Becerra said.

Kent Boes, who represents Williams residents as Colusa County supervisor for District 3, said there is a need for affordable senior housing in the community.

“We have a great many folks who are retired and on fixed incomes that don’t keep up with inflation,” Boes said. “Their costs continue to increase, but their compensation doesn’t.”

As for other housing segments, Boes said vacancy rates in general are dwindling in Williams and have been for a few years. Boes noted two housing projects located on the Valley Ranch side of town have helped to curb housing needs but that future sites would need major construction and installation of necessary infrastructure.

Frank Kennedy, city administrator for Williams, said he wouldn’t go as far as calling the city’s housing situation a crisis, but that there is unusually high rent for the properties that are being leased out.

“Good high-quality rental property is needed,” Kennedy said. “That project (Stony Creek) and the last 40 homes built here, they are all going to fill up immediately. Stony Creek certainly helps, but it is not the end all, be all to fix the situation we face.”

Roughly 12 percent of Williams’ housing population is low income, a figure Kennedy said is high for a city of less than 6,000.

Kennedy said the City Council’s approach has been to attract more businesses, which should provide opportunities for housing to develop afterwards. When the housing crisis hit in 2008, Kennedy said the community was left with undeveloped homes as job opportunities scattered away.

Boes reiterated Kennedy’s opinion that attracting businesses is a key component to the solving the housing crunch and is optimistic about the direction the city is taking.

“Right now is an exciting time for Williams,” Boes said. “New development in its business districts offer a large number of new projects coming in.”