Merced executives approve housing policy changes and new projects

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City of Merced

From homeless veterans to college students desperate for homes within their budget, city leaders took action this week to ease housing stress for vulnerable Merced residents.

Merced City Council reviewed new projects and policy updates aimed at addressing Merced’s longstanding housing issues at Monday’s meeting. Each was unanimously supported by the Council.

Continuing efforts spurred nearly a year ago last September, city leaders passed another round of policy changes designed to streamline housing production.

Policy adjustments unanimously approved by the Board will generally allow developments greater flexibility in design and increase the effectiveness of potential developers, according to city staff.

Merced’s director of development services, Scott McBride, noted the progress made since September, as well as work underway to further facilitate a variety of developments. “It goes a long way to get there,” he said of the new changes approved by the Board on Monday. “Not all updates need to be done.

The relatively simple changes are part of a larger initiative expected to kick off in the coming months that will include major updates to the General City Plan and Zoning Ordinance to accommodate these policies. These updates will also aim to promote an increase in housing production and commercial development.

Changes passed Monday include reforms to the city’s zoning ordinance regarding duplexes, the level of review required for various land uses in commercial zoning districts, density requirements for residential uses in commercial districts. , minimum size and design standards for planned residential developments, residential design standards and more.

Merced Downtown Neighborhood Association President Diana Odom Gunn expressed her organization’s approval of the proposed changes ahead of the Council’s vote.

“Residents are happy with more flexibility,” she said. “We support the changes. »

A full list of policy updates can be found in Monday’s City Council papers.

Housing projects target veterans and homeless students

Merced executives have also greenlighted several projects aimed at removing barriers to housing for vulnerable residents.

An affordable housing development approved on Monday is intended to house homeless veterans. Affordable housing has fixed costs so low-income occupants spend no more than 30% of their income on housing.

The project is on track to use container units to house about 20 homeless veterans and includes ongoing support services assisted by the Veterans Administration and Merced County Rescue Mission, according to the city.

Floor plans show four apartments and one secondary suite, as well as on-site manager accommodation. The project will include a total of 22 beds and bathrooms.

The homes are expected to open to residents this fall or winter, McBride said.

Located on the west side of R Street, south of Childs Avenue, the project is intended to provide permanent supportive housing for tenants with incomes below 30% of the area median income.

Permanent supportive housing refers to a housing intervention that combines housing assistance with support services such as health and mental health care for chronically homeless households, according to the city.

The units will be targeted at helping people who are chronically homeless ⁠ – especially homeless veterans who may fall into extremely low and extremely low income levels. According to the stipulations of the project, the units will remain affordable for at least 55 years.

The homes will be developed by CC915 Merced, Inc., formerly Custom Containers 915, and in partnership with the Merced County Rescue Mission for onsite management and other services.

A $4.2 million grant was awarded to help fund the project by the California Department of Housing and Community Development’s Homekey program.

In an effort to ease the city’s student housing woes, Merced leaders also this week approved preliminary steps to build more than 900 housing units near UC Merced. At least 12.5% ​​of these units will be affordable if the project materializes.

Often cited as a “crisis” by city leaders, the scarcity of housing within an average student’s budget was made starkly evident last year when UC Merced was forced to delay the first day of classes in nobody. About 1,000 students were still struggling to find accommodation less than a month before the start of the school year.

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Abbie Lauten-Scrivner is a reporter for the Merced Sun-Star. It covers the town of Atwater and the county of Merced. Abbie holds a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and Public Relations from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

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