City might have to plan for 11,000 more homes, updated November 3, 2019

PALMDALE — The city of Palmdale may be required to plan for building more than 11,000 homes over the next eight years, if preliminary housing requirements hold true.

Of those, more than half are intended to accommodate residents of moderate income or higher.

The housing numbers are part of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, which state law requires on an eight-year cycle to ensure cities and other jurisdictions plan for residential growth across all income categories while taking into social equity and diversity.

Emphasis is given now to also planning for residential development alongside jobs and transportation hubs.

Given California’s statewide housing crisis, the housing allotments have become more important, as the state “has ratcheted up the requirements and the criteria and penalties for not doing so,” Palmdale Planning Director Rob Bruce said during a City Council workshop meeting on the subject Oct. 24.

“It didn’t used to be important to cities because there weren’t any penalties associated with not complying with it,” he said.

Now, however, a proper housing plan is necessary to be eligible for certain state grants.

The Southern California Association of Governments, a planning organization representing six counties, sets the housing requirements for its members, dividing an overall allotment amongst the various jurisdictions. In this cycle, SCAG is divvying up more than 1.34 million in projected housing needs across its members.

“That’s significantly higher than the last time,” Bruce said, representing nearly 80% of the nearly 1.7 million units in housing needs statewide.

“It’s a lot of jurisdictions (in SCAG), but it’s not three-quarters of the state,” he said.

This has often caused controversy, as different formulas have led to charges of unfairly burdening some communities.

SCAG has responded this time with developing a new methodology, which is expected to be finalized early next year, Bruce said.

The proposed method takes into account each jurisdiction’s existing income categories and consider that in distributing the requirements more fairly.

The final RHNA figures will be adopted in October 2020.

For Palmdale, the proposed formula comes to 11,426 in housing needed, compared to 5,451 in the last cycle.

That requirement is divided into four income categories. The largest category for Palmdale is those with above moderate income at 43.6% of the total. Moderate income housing is at 15.1%, low income at 14.2% and very low income at 27%.

This distribution is important, because it is very difficult to provide housing for very low and low income households, Bruce said.

“The market simply doesn’t get you there. The state formula assumes if you build dense enough, and use the theories of supply and demand, the costs will go down,” he said.

However, construction costs outweigh these considerations, and requires additional help from the city to make affordable housing work.

In comparison, Lancaster is looking at more than 17,000 housing units needed, again with most in the above moderate income category.

Santa Clarita’s preliminary numbers show a need for nearly 13,000 in housing, with the largest portion going to very low income at 34.2%.

“Compared to our sister cities here, we’re doing pretty well,” Bruce said.

Despite the growing importance of meeting these marks, “I’ve never seen any jurisdiction meet its RHNA. It’s a goal, we have to plan for it,” Bruce said, however, cities can not build housing themselves.

The housing numbers will figure into the city’s General Plan update to show areas set aside for the proper mix of housing.

The issue has been a pressing one for Mayor Steve Hofbauer for some time and he argued that the state has hampered cities in meeting these goals by removing the millions in redevelopment funds cities once used the support things like affordable housing.

“We’re trying to find some relief from the state,” he said.

“We can facilitate and be happy to let the developers come in and build this, but if they can’t get the lending, that’s the biggest issue that faces our community right now,” Mayor Pro Tem Austin Bishop said.

Local leaders have stated the region is effectively red-lined, in that lenders are not interested in backing developments in the area.

Members of the Planning Commission and the General Plan Advisory Committee were invited to the workshop meeting, to ensure that all those city entities involved with housing planning received the information to take back to their respective bodies.

“I just wanted to make sure we had the opportunity to have our key players here,” Hofbauer said.

Source: Antelope Valley Press
Article By ALLISON GATLIN Valley Press Staff Writer Nov 3, 2019
agatlin@avpress.com

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