What's old is new again in Mammoth

Mammoth Lakes Housing (MLH), dedicated to providing housing for low-income families, has turned a radical corner.

Rather than building new structures, the non-profit organization has its eye on acquiring and rehabilitating older structures in Mammoth.
“This is our first step into it, so we’re dealing with some new processes,” said MLH executive director Pam Hennarty, “but I think we’re handling it pretty well. We’re excited about the process.”

The first rehab project is now under way on Old Mammoth Road: a two-story house with two apartment units on the first floor and two on the second floor.

The house is a mess.

The two upper units once comprised a three-bedroom apartment, which was good enough. Then the former owner split the upper floors into a one-bedroom unit and a two-bedroom unit.

It didn’t work out so well. The one-bedroom apartment met practically no building codes at all.

In stepped Hennarty and her crew, and the house is now in the process of rehabilitation, under the direction of architect John Clark.
When it is done, Mammoth Lakes Housing will have four up-to-code apartments.

In addition, the restrictions on affordable housing will be more manageable, she said. Under the current affordable housing restrictions, only families with incomes below the 60 percent median income level are eligible for affordable housing.

Under the new rehab rules, that restriction rises to 80 percent, making the units more available to those in need.

We have a significant number of households at 65 percent,” Hennarty said, “so they don’t meet the requirements of those low-income units we’ve already built.

“These (rehab) units are now at 80 percent of median income, so they add to another need that we haven’t been able to serve yet.”
The effort by the housing organization met with wide approval from the Town of Mammoth Lakes Planning Commission, which met on Wednesday and approved a use permit for the house.

“I’m delighted this is happening,” said commissioner Elizabeth Tenney.
Commissioner Rhonda Duggan echoed Tenney: “This is exactly what I wanted to see from Mammoth Lakes Housing.”

Jay Deinken, vice-chair of the commission also chimed in his support.
“This is a more different way to provide housing, and I’d like to see more of it.”

So, too, would Hennarty, whose organization acquired the funds through President Barack Obama’s federal stimulus packaging. Funding in the future would come from federal and state funds.

“When we started out,” she said, “we were very entrepreneurial in building brand new product, and we were successful in doing so.

“We built 78 rentals and 48 ownership units. But in the current economy, it’s expensive to do that, and current funding has certainly tightened.

“We heard throughout our community that people want to see some of the existing stock re-taken over by locals.

“So much of what we have are second-home owner properties for transient rentals in the winter. So this is our first step in doing that [acquiring these homes].

“There are some really great homes out there. If we can buy and help upgrade them and bring them up to better standards, we can utilize what we have.”