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SANTA ROSA, CA-In response to pressure from federal and state agencies, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has endorsed the construction of low- and very low-income rental housing in the unincorporated area of the county and the hiring of additional staff to help move those projects through the system.

The guiding principles for using county money for affordable housing programs that were endorsed by the board are part of the county’s General Plan Housing Element. It calls for building 1,117 affordable housing units in the unincorporated area within the next five years.

Special emphasis will be given to rental housing developments for low- and very low-income households — the single greatest housing need in the county, according to officials. High priority will be given to the special housing needs of the elderly, disabled, farm workers and homeless people.

County officials said they do not have enough staff to address the extra effort required by the housing element and five additional staff positions were approved by the board, three of which are subject to available financing.

The positions include an affordable housing assistant manager, two assistants, a coordinator, and a planner who would serve a two-year term.

The county has $1 million in its fiscal year 2002-03 budget for affordable housing in addition to $250,000 for a 24- to 35-bed homeless shelter near the County Center.

County officials are also considering using a portion of the transient occupancy tax generated by new lodging facilities to finance affordable housing efforts.

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