The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors recently finalized an updated housing element, a component of the county’s general plan that quantifies and strategizes how to provide adequate housing for all residents in unincorporated areas of the county.
All counties and cities in California are mandated by state law to come up with a plan to house their residents by updating their housing elements every eight years. The new cycle includes an “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” requirement to make sure new affordable housing is built near adequate services and resources, with the goal of reducing segregated neighborhoods and improving equity.
The county must build over 4,600 new homes during the upcoming cycle, which runs 2023-31. Of those, about 2,500 will be affordable housing units reserved for residents with low and very low incomes.
That’s a significant increase from the total of just over 1,300 that the county had to build as part of the previous cycle, setting aside about 500 for low-income housing.
Ripple effects of housing costs
“Housing and housing costs impact local government’s ability to provide quality services, our business community’s ability to attract and retain a highly qualified workforce, and most importantly the ability of our residents to provide a stable and secure environment for their families,” said Carlos Palacios, the county’s administrative officer.
The Board of Supervisors is targeting areas near the urban centers of Santa Cruz and Capitola for much of the new development. The county projects being able to meet, and even surpass its quota, by utilizing rezoning authorized by a spate of recent state laws that cover everything from accessory dwelling units to building height and processing times.
One of those laws, Senate Bill 10, allows the county to rezone any parcel near adequate transit and utility connections to allow up to 10 units to be built. The county’s planning commission has identified 40 parcels that can be developed under the new allowance.
Other rezoning will allow for more development on publicly owned property, permit buildings between 4-6 stories in certain areas, and allow more multifamily units in areas previously prohibited from medium and high-density housing.
The housing element was unanimously approved by the county Board of Supervisors at its Nov. 14 meeting and must now be approved by the state Department of Housing and Community Development within 90 days.