A document outlining the next eight years of housing development, improvement, and preservation could be headed to the Santa Monica City Council before 2013 comes to end.
Planning commissioners are expected to vote this Wednesday whether to recommend the 2013-2021 Housing Element to the City Council. If the Planning Commission gives the thumbs up, the City Council will hold an adoption hearing Dec. 10.
According to City staff, every municipality in the State is required to provide an updated Housing Element “within a specified timeframe.”
“State Housing Element law requires that each City and County identify and analyze existing and projected housing needs within their jurisdiction for the next eight years, and prepare goals, policies, programs and quantified objectives to further the development, improvement, and preservation of housing,” City staff stated.
The Housing Element serves as a key document setting forth Santa Monica’s policies and programs for housing production and maintenance to accommodate the needs of the community.
According to City Hall, the Housing Element reflects Santa Monica’s “high priority” to maintain affordable housing and programs to provide housing for members of the community with special needs.
“This Housing Element is being written at a time of uncertainty in regard to creating and retaining affordable housing. This uncertainty challenges the implementation of longstanding programs and objectives,” City staff stated. “During the economic boom at the turn of this century, market forces and rental vacancy decontrol substantially eroded affordability for many lower and middle income households in Santa Monica, reducing opportunities for those employed in the City to find local housing.”
In its report to Planning commissioners, City staff acknowledged Santa Monica “must adjust to changes in funding for affordable housing production due to the Redevelopment Agency’s dissolution.
“Nevertheless, the Housing Element includes a quantitative objective of 1,371 units, approximately half of which would be deed-restricted affordable units,” City staff stated.
The Housing Element also claims to maintain the emphasis of the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) to conserve existing neighborhoods and planning for new housing units near transit opportunities in mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods.
Other stated priorities include: identifying strategies for expanding housing opportunities; providing services for all household types and income groups; and, serving as the primary housing policy guide.
A major factor governing the Housing Element’s strategy is the loss of redevelopment, or RDA, funding.
“Santa Monica’s challenge to provide housing assistance to its neediest households and lower-income members of the workforce is compounded by the State’s elimination of redevelopment agencies in 2011,” City staff stated. “As this Housing Element is developed, new sources to meet the housing challenges of the planning period have yet to be identified, but are absolutely necessary to enable the City to reach its goals to deepen diversity in the community and reduce peak hour traffic congestion and [Greenhouse Gas] emissions through providing opportunities to live and work in the city.”
City staff stated in its report to the Planning Commission the 2013-2021 Housing Element “would not result in any significant impacts on the environment.”
Planning commissioners reviewed the 2013-2021 Housing Element in August and made specific recommendations of how the City Council could “address pressing housing concerns in the coming years.”
According to City staff, commissioners suggested, “developing additional resources to subsidize housing at the lowest end of the affordability spectrum” and “meeting the need for housing that allows seniors to “age in place” or to move into more appropriately sized housing that is designed with features and services that help them live independently for as long as possible.”
Other suggestions include improving housing access for persons with disabilities and negotiating with developers to provide affordable units “that are needed and would benefit the community.”
The 2013-2021 Housing Element is, according to City staff, based upon updated 2010 census data and updates the 2008-2014 Housing Element.
Once adopted by the council, the State’s Dept. of Housing and Community Development (HCD) must certify the 2013-2021 Housing Element. The 2013-2021 Housing Element would be in effect through June 30, 2021.
City staff stated HCD’s response to the Draft Housing Element was “highly positive” due to its format, readability, and “excellent demonstration of public participation and incorporation of comments received, and the innovative approach to housing policies within a transit-oriented context.”
HCD staff is still reviewing three public comment letters it received. However, City staff stated once the HCD process is complete, the 2013-2021 Housing Element would meet the required qualifications to be certified by the State.
Documents and findings related to the 2013-2021 Housing Element are available on the City’s Planning and Community Development website: smgov.net/Departments/PCD/Plans/2013-2021-Housing-Element.