Yesterday evening the County hosted a public meeting on the Brunswick Commons Affordable Housing Project and Homeless Resource Center. Mike Dent; Nevada County Child Support, Collections, Housing and Community Services Director introduced the project with panelists Nancy Baglietto, Executive Director of Hospitality House; Gustavo Becerra, Executive Director of Regional Housing Authority; Robert Wallis, President of Wallis Design Studio Architecture; Tom Last, Grass Valley Community Development Director; Tyler Barrington, Nevada County Principal Planner; and Scott McLeran, Interim Assistant County Counsel. The proposed Brunswick Commons project is a mixture of affordable housing and homeless resource center which includes transitional housing units.
Approximately 40 residents attended the meeting, with hundreds more watching live on social media, cable television and online. In addition to residents, area representatives District 3 Supervisor Dan Miller and Grass Valley City Mayor Lisa Swarthout also attended the meeting.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Nevada County residents would have to work 72 hours a week at minimum wage to afford a one bedroom house locally. Although Nevada County's housing is more affordable than the average home in California, residents would need the equivalent of almost two full times jobs at minimum wage to afford basic housing. With the Brunswick Commons Affordable Housing Project, Nevada County is partnering with the City of Grass Valley, Hospitality House and the Regional Housing Authority to bring more affordable housing to local residents.
At the meeting Gustavo Becerra, Executive Director of the Regional Housing Authority, spoke towards how the housing will give preference to local residents saying, "There will be a preference for applicants who live and work in Nevada County, as well as additional preferences such as to residents who are veterans."
“The City has been working with the County throughout this process and will continue to be engaged,” added Tom Last, Grass Valley’s Community Development Director.
Brunswick Commons includes 41 permanent supportive housing units, with approximately 12 of those units targeting Nevada County's homeless population with a mental health disability. Brunswick Commons will have service providers onsite including Hospitality House, Nevada County Behavioral Health and others, as well as an on-site manager and supplemental security outside of normal business hours.
"We are happy to be able to partner with Hospitality House and Nevada County's Behavioral Health Department because the target population that we want to help might not be successful without the wraparound services they need. The service provider component is critical to this project," said Gustavo Becerra.
Nancy Baglietto, Executive Director of Hospitality House, explained their services and long term vision at the meeting saying, “A year ago Hospitality House formed a vision that we thought could make a big difference. It’s part of the Housing First model, but it's more. It’s meeting people where they are at, it's harm reduction and it's being that resource that can get people to the places they need to be in the way they see they need to get there." Nancy continued to describe how the Brunswick Commons Homeless Resource Center and Affordable Housing project helps fulfill this vision to meet people where they are at
Several neighboring residents to the project expressed concerns around wildfires associated with camping and the area's homeless population.
Brunswick Commons architect Robert Wallis addressed this concern saying, “When you develop a parcel, you improve large areas of that parcel where you make it less likely to have fire transverse through it. Right now the parcel is a wooded, grassy area that if a fire came through could spread quickly. Once you put in this development there will be irrigated landscaping, buildings and roads that provide more of a buffer than is provided currently."
Many community supporters also spoke in favor of the project. One resident, who had once been homeless himself, said, "If this housing is developed people have a secure area, they have support, they are not building fires to stay warm, they are not building fires to eat and they cook to survive. This plan here, this housing, is a fantastic idea. Very supportive, very structured."
The Brunswick Commons Affordable Housing Project and Homeless Resource Center fulfills two of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors' six top priorities: to leverage resources to address housing affordability issues through partnerships with other jurisdictions, potential developers and the housing authority; and to implement a 24/7 service pilot program under a housing first model to offer services to the County's homelessness population.
The Brunswick Commons Public Meeting is available to watch online from Nevada County Media's YouTube Channel or from County of Nevada, CA's Facebook page.