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VIEWPOINT: Housing considerations for Claremont developments

[The following opinion was sent to the city of Claremont and its city council members.]

VIEWPOINT by Geoff Hamill

As a longtime homeowner, investment property owner/landlord/tenant, alumni of the city’s public schools, and, most importantly, a local realtor for more than 30 years, I wanted to reach out in regard to upcoming housing developments in Claremont.

From a realtor’s point of view, and on behalf of the many customers we serve, my real estate colleagues and I have tried to share information with anyone at city hall who will listen about what our customers are looking for in terms of residential living in Claremont.

This is what they’ve told us.

For any proposed new housing project in the city, the following items should be strongly considered:

1. Single story and/or one-level housing within every new development. This is a severe need. We understand that some multi-story units will be built, but developers should be required to include a significant number of single-level units within their plans. Also, any buildings that are three stories and higher should require at least two elevators.

Developers need not worry about “penciling out for profits” on such projects, as the dollar per square foot price on single-level housing will be quite high versus multi-story units.

2. All residential units should be quality built, and should qualify for FHA and VA financing. We believe none of the newer townhomes along Base Line Road, the upcoming townhomes at Colby Circle or The Commons will include such a requirement. Hence, many FHA and VA qualified buyers will be excluded from customer pools.

The result would be an over saturation of forced rentals and/or Airbnb short-term housing, plus an uptick in crime and parking issues. We know this to be the case because we hear about these concerns from current residents of the Base Line Road townhomes.

FHA qualified units would also benefit older folks seeking a reverse mortgage to age in place, as these instruments often require an FHA approved development.

3. Any development more than 50 units needs a requirement for fenced pool, spa, recreation, park and barbecue areas to provide a comfortable, safe and active lifestyle.

The recent trend of “tot lots,” “pocket parks,” small courtyard sitting areas and park belts is shortsighted, as they provide little privacy.

4. New units should include more than ample parking, with two designated parking spaces. If a resident doesn’t need one or both spaces, he or she can choose to forfeit it.

We know land is scarce, so let’s allow developers time to build underground parking so the structures don’t encroach on valuable living space above ground.

Residents in adjacent neighborhoods should not be burdened with new development parking nuisance, congestion or the invasion of their privacy.

5. People should have the right to own or rent, without prejudice. Many folks would rather own their home than rent. Ownership has long proven to boost local economies as homeowners invest in their houses, their lifestyles and neighborhood preservation.

In addition, and perhaps most importantly, ownership helps folks build equity and a retirement nest eggs.

There are a multitude of multi-story and one-story rental units surrounding the Village. But there are no single-story condo or PUD units around the Village available for purchase” at this time.

6. There should be a “right-sized” grocery store within a convenient distance to any new development. It’s just not practical for everyone to be able to walk, ride or ride share with a bundle of groceries, and not everyone is able. Having a nearby option would also reduce traffic.

7. Younger people, healthy empty-nesters and folks with disabilities need more options. Some units could be as small as 600 square feet, offering a more affordable alternative. Other units should be 1,000 to 2,000 square feet, and top floor penthouse units should be 2,500 to 3,000 square feet.

As it currently stands, Village South plans for too many units at 1,140. Plus, most of the proposed units are tiny and only available as rentals. The project should include about 80 percent for sale and 20 percent rental. Once a community reaches 50 percent or more rentals, there are great challenges to obtain FHA, VA and conventional loan financing.

If a development contains four- or five-story units, they should be as far as possible from Indian Hill Boulevard, Arrow Highway, the Vortox building and any other historic structures, so that the older edifices aren’t dwarfed.

Developers should always communicate clearly with, respect the privacy of and potential impact on the neighbors adjacent to any proposed new taller structures.

These suggestions will also enable many to transition from their current oversized and occasionally unsafe multi-story homes to something more appropriate.

Young families will then be able to purchase single family homes, benefitting Claremont schools as more children will fill classrooms.

Further, real property transfer fees will rise, and newly higher assessed property values will hit the tax rolls, resulting in more funds for the city, county and state.

Finally, sustainability—i.e. solar power, energy saving building materials and appliance and net zero goals—are also crucial and must also be considered with any new construction.