Update: County Affordable Housing Policy and a recap from the 11/5 HAC meeting

SCCBC been closely following the County’s actions related to a reimagining of their affordable housing policies. While the key principal of a 15% affordable housing mandate will not change (1978’s Measure J makes sure of that), there are a handful of tweaks that could fuel an uptick in the number of both affordable and market-rate units constructed on an annual-basis. While a couple of the changes are due to legal requirements, others are being considered as a way to encourage both private- and public-sector investment in housing.

Here is the rundown of the most recent items passed through the County’s Housing Advisory Commission (HAC) at their November 5th meeting:

  • For projects of 5+ units, housing developers should have the option of choosing between building on-site affordable units or paying impact fees. SCCBC’s take – we are supportive of this as it allows for the County to collect additional fees that can be leveraged for more housing funds at the state and federal levels. Additionally, it give private developers an option that would allow more flexibility and certainty to the overall process.
  • Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) would be subject to a $2/sq. ft. impact fee. This same $2/sq. ft. fee is applied to all new rental development, as well. The HAC’s rationale was that ADUs are constructed to be rentals, so they should be subject to the same impact fee. SCCBC’s take – while we see the rationale, we recommend that any impact fee applied to ADUs be tabled until the County embarks upon changes to their Housing Element in 2015.
  • A graduated impact fee structure would apply to projects of 1-4 units. The proposed scale is as follows: Units under 1,500 sq. ft would be subject to $2/sq. ft.; 1,501 to 2,500 – $5/sq. ft.; 2,501 to 3,500 – $10/sq. ft.; 3,501 to 5,000 – $15/sq. ft.; 5,000+ – $20/sq. ft. SCCBC’s take:  Based upon our conversations with those that build single-family dwellings, we are opposed to fees being applied to projects of 1-2 units. That said, the rationale that the “cost” of affordable housing be spread among all development, thus reducing fees applied to larger projects, does not fall on deaf ears. Instead of the initial $15/sq. ft. fee that was to be “across the board,” a graduated structure that incentivizes the development of smaller, more affordable units is to be commended. One final recommendation we make here is to apply this graduated structure to the first 4 units of a 5+ unit project for uniformity.

Previously recommended changes to the policy can be found here from earlier SCCBC analysis.

What’s next in the process full of twists and turns?

SCCBC will be attending the November 12th public hearing that will be held by the County Planning Commission. At that meeting, SCCBC will continue to push for the policy tweaks we recommend, additionally we will ask that the Planning Commission direct County staff to provide more data about how many units, market-rate and affordable, we need to construct in the coming years to make a dent in our housing deficiency problem.

We realize we will never make Santa Cruz County an affordable place to purchase or rent a home, but we will continue to advocate for policies that will allow both the public- and private-sectors the tools they need to make the construction of all types of housing more feasible.