Masters Thesis

Creating affordable housing in Humboldt County

This project analyzes the local barriers and solutions to producing affordable housing in Humboldt County, focusing on the cities of Eureka and Arcata, as well as the Humboldt County level. Interviews with representatives and employees of local government, planners, developers, members of the real estate industry, and transitional housing professionals reveal the difficulties of developing affordable housing locally, the solutions which have been effective, and potential solutions for the future. The results of the interviews paint a picture of the local affordable housing situation, suggest reasons for the drastic increase in housing costs, and examine how affordable housing creation has been linked to or competed with open space conservation, housing rehabilitation, and historic preservation in Humboldt County. Issues at the local government level, such as public participation and concerns over community character and design, are addressed. Interview results also summarize the array of benefits of creating affordable housing in Humboldt County. The literature review covers the economics of zoning for affordable housing, and examines examples of the obstacles and solutions to creating affordable housing in other U.S. communities, including NIMBY conflicts, local and state policy solutions, and innovative home buying programs for moderate and low income households. Theories of economic and social justice are explored, in terms of a community’s collective responsibility to house all of its contributing workers and eliminate barriers based upon economic inequalities. Theories of property rights and social class are examined in the context of rural communities, their history, modern changes, economic development, and community conflict. This project is intended to benefit Humboldt County. Project results are specific to Humboldt County, but may also be valuable to other communities working through affordable housing crises. This project contributes to local understanding and discussion of local affordable housing issues, and can perhaps be used as a springboard for future community discussions. Summarizing the professional barriers and solutions to creating affordable housing opportunities in Humboldt County will also be useful for the purpose of addressing particular obstacles and working toward the necessary solutions.