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Valley’s Edge referendum results will be ‘very interesting,’ says Butte County’s housing authority

Bill Brouhard, Valley's Edge planning manager, in Chico, Calif. on Feb. 26. 2024.
Erik Adams
Bill Brouhard, Valley's Edge planning manager, in Chico, Calif. on Feb. 26. 2024.

On a windy afternoon in February, Valley’s Edge planning manager, Bill Brouhard, envisions the proposed development on the vast land before him. Streams, rocks and oak trees wind through the plot that thousands of homes might occupy if Measures O and P pass on Tuesday.

“We were given the mandate from the city, and from the community through the city, in the general plan to plan this area with a broad mix of housing types,” Brouhard said.

For Valley’s Edge, that mix of housing includes everything from single family homes and small starter homes to row houses and apartments.

“What Chico needs is well-planned land that can help provide a supply for the people that are living here,” Brouhard said, “and that's what Valley's Edge will do … nothing ever got more affordable by having less of it.”

Valley’s Edge looks to bring nearly 3,000 housing units to this 1500-acre plot of green hills, on the southeast side of Chico.

Concern about affordability

Among those who oppose Valley’s Edge, affordability of the proposed housing is a concern.

“I think that there could be a better project on that site,” said Councilmember Addison Winslow. “It would be with more compact housing and less sprawl.”

Winslow advocates for more construction of affordable housing and has been vocally opposed to Valley’s Edge from the start. He said it doesn’t address the city’s need for affordable housing and said it strays from the city’s general plan.

“The conceptual land-use plan had 18 acres for medium [to] high-density residential zoning. That's to say, like the normal apartment zoning where you can adequately support affordable housing through subsidies,” Winslow said. But he said in the Valley’s Edge plan, “they slice that in half. There's only nine acres now of medium [to] high-density residential.”

Of the nearly 600 acres proposed to be developed, about 6% is planned for apartments. But Brouhard said there’s room for more.

A mixed-use commercial area could include additional high-density housing.

“We identified one multifamily site, and we identified 50 acres … that can accommodate additional multifamily development,” Brouhard said.

“We should be looking [at] both, at the 200 units that are planned specifically, but also 50 acres where we've got additional multifamily that can happen. And that includes our voluntary subsidized housing.”

The Valley’s Edge website promises room for homes within “a broad range of affordability.” Along with a plan for hundreds of estate lots and more than a thousand single-family homes, apartments, starter homes and workforce housing make up about 8% of the total land use.

Workforce housing is defined on the Valley’s Edge website as housing that “revolves around design, density and assembly methods capable of lowering the cost of new home production.” It says it “serves home buyers which over-qualify for subsidized housing, yet under-qualify for a mortgage adequate to own a typical single-family home.”

Streams, rocks and oak trees on the currently undeveloped property that may become the Valley's Edge development in Chico, Calif. on Feb. 26, 2024.
Erik Adams
Streams, rocks and oak trees on the currently undeveloped property that may become the Valley's Edge development in Chico, Calif. on Feb. 26, 2024.

Will some Valley’s Edge homes really cost $300,000?

A common talking point among Valley’s Edge proponents is that some homes could be sold for as little as $300,000.

Brandon Slater is a general contractor who said he can make that happen. He has an agreement with the plan’s developers to build on Valley’s Edge land if the vote passes.

“I have a deal to purchase 100 lots with an option to buy more,” Slater said.

Slater said the size of the homes he anticipates building will range from 525 to 976 square feet in size. And the cost of those homes are estimated to range from $299,000 to $399,000, respectively.

Chico realtor, Kim Jergentz said the prospect of a $300,000 home is “a lofty goal,” but she expects they would sell successfully.

“I think that that's going to take some careful, careful planning,” Jergentz said, “and there's plenty of very bright minds in this area that can make that happen and there's builders willing to do it.”

Ed Mayer of the Housing Authority of Butte County is an advocate of building more affordable housing in Chico. He said the Valley’s Edge plan doesn’t yield much subsidized, affordable housing, but he recognizes a need for more than that.

“The correct perspective is to say we need Valley’s Edge and a whole lot of regulated, affordable housing, we need it all,” he said. “We can't afford to say ‘no’ to anything at this point without aggravating what is already a very difficult situation in terms of housing supply.”

Brouhard said that if the vote goes against Valley’s Edge, the need for housing in Chico will suffer.

“By canceling Valley's edge, you're canceling Chico's ability to kind of continue to introduce housing when it's needed,” Brouhard said. “And the type of housing that's needed in our community.”

More reporting on Valley’s Edge: Vote will decide if Chico should build homes in the wildland urban interface

Erik began his role as NSPR's Butte County government reporter in September of 2023 as part of UC Berkeley's California Local News Fellowship. He received his bachelor's degree in Journalism from Cal State LA earlier that year.