The Santa Barbara City Council and Planning Commission met for several hours last week to begin to tackle its Housing Element — a framework for management and growth of the city’s housing.
Santa Barbara needs 8,001 new housing units for the 2022-2031 cycle, according to a presentation. Of those, 3,534 need to be affordable to low- and very low-income households.
But in the previous cycle, Santa Barbara’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment allocated 4,100 new housing units. As of December 2021, only 1,592 were permitted — leaving 2,508 remaining units.
Of those, only 120 units of very low-income households were permitted as well as 112 for low-income and four for moderate-income households. That left 842 remaining units that were earmarked for very low-income households, 589 for low-income households and 816 for moderate-income households, according to figures provided to the group on April 28.
Countywide, the housing unit needs for the upcoming cycle total 24,856.
During a three-hour meeting, city council members and commissioners contemplated goals for the proposed Housing Element, which stipulates actions, policies and programs needed for housing growth and retention across all income levels, according to a staff report.
The joint group was presented with eight proposed goals for the upcoming sixth cycle of the Housing Element:
— Create New Housing: Create new healthy, safe and energy-efficient housing that meets community needs.
— Prioritize Affordable Housing: Prioritize deed-restricted housing that is affordable to the city’s workforce and vulnerable communities over other types of development.
— Provide Housing Assistance: Provide financial resources and supportive services for members of the community who need housing assistance.
— Promote Housing Stability: Retain existing affordable housing and discourage tenant displacement.
— Preserve Housing: Prevent blight or deterioration, promote occupancy and discourage conversion to other uses.
— Inform the Community: Educate the community about housing issues, affordable housing opportunities and available resources and programs.
— Coordinate with Regional Partners: Coordinate with surrounding communities to address regional housing issues, homelessness and the jobs and housing balance.
Although the group discussed a variety of potential changes and additions to the goals — and ideas for future planning — no concrete action was taken during the April 28 meeting. It was continued to May 17 for future deliberations.
“I’m really excited about this Housing Element process,” said Gabriel Escobedo, chair of the Planning Commission. “I think this has the potential to be really effective for our community.”
Some ideas floated by the joint panel included establishing a land value capture approach, reclaiming existing housing, implementing measurable outcomes of the Housing Element at various intervals and adding stricter zoning requirements for hotel development to increase opportunities for housing instead.
“I can’t say strongly enough how supportive I am for including an additional goal for funding streams and funding sources,” Councilmember Meagan Harmon said. “To the extent that we are thinking about this process and how we can get a better report card eight years from now, it’s just clear as day to me that we cannot get a better report card unless we have funding. Without that, we’re really out to sea.”
Devon Wardlow, a member of the Planning Commission, suggested the group consider new ways of addressing housing goals, noting failures in previous years.
“If we’re just giving lofty goals again, I want to make sure we have real ways to get them done,” Commissioner Wardlow said.
The city council will readdress the topic on May 17 and can modify goals or delineate goals versus programs and policies.