RIPON — Three new houses constructed with funds from the now defunct Ripon Redevelopment Agency stand empty in the center of Ripon with neither city, county or state governments claiming ownership.
Five other affordable homes were also built with RDA funds before Gov. Jerry Brown seized the local agencies’ assets and tax base in a bid to cover a part of the state’s ever growing annual deficit. Ripon’s Development Specialist Sheryl Prater said the eight homes are in limbo until the state sorts through the mess they created.
The city has hired a gardener to keep the yards up on a twice monthly rotation. One Ripon man has made it his responsibility to turn on the sprinklers every couple of days to make sure the lawns don’t die as the days get warmer.
The RDA-built houses elsewhere in the city are occupied and presently in escrow with people trying to sell them, but they can’t because of the RDA situation, Prater said. She also noted others who took advantage of the RDA low cost home offers are trying to refinance, but they can’t.
The development specialist explained that the city tried to turn the homes over to the San Joaquin County Housing Authority before their legal authority to operate an RDA expired, but the county refused to accept the titles.
“All I can do is to recommend that people call their state representatives, either Tom Berryhill in the Senate or Bill Berryhill in the Assembly so this can be resolved.”
Prater said this situation has been on-going since Feb. 1 when RDAs ceased to exist. Similar problems are plaguing cities throughout the state that operated the 400-plus RDAs.
There is a cleanup bill AB1X26 before the state legislature where one line could possibly be added that would have RDA houses and assets transferred to the State Community Development Department when a county refuses to accept the properties from cities like Ripon.
Prater added that the one line inclusion is seen as doubtful at this time.
Bill Berryhill of the 26th Assembly District late Friday afternoon chided Gov. Brown’s action to recall the RDA funds from throughout the state not thinking of all the related consequences.
He noted that RDAs has been in existence for some 60 years addressing affordable housing and economic development. Berryhill added many legislators felt RDAs should not have been ended.
“There is a bill in the hopper right now that is part of the budget trailer bill we will be watching closely to see if anything can help,” he said.
Berryhill said he had also talked to city officials in Manteca about their RDA problems, saying, “it just gets your head spinning.”
The assemblyman added that the lawyers are the only ones coming out ahead in the equation. “Hopefully we can do something and get these things back on the market for the good of the cities,” Berryhill concluded.
Asked who would carry insurance on these homes that have been standing vacant for the last four months, Berryhill replied that he didn’t know, but that was a good question.