San Benito County took a step forward Jan. 17 when the Board of Supervisors approved an updated Affordable Housing Ordinance, but that step forward should be even bolder.
Supervisors unanimously approved an update to the ordinance after months of meetings in 2022 by the Housing Advisory Committee before gaining the Planning Commission’s blessing.
Some of the key attributes of the ordinance include a requirement for developments to include at least 15% of units in an affordable category, impact fee waivers for projects that are 100% affordable, tightening allowances for payment of in-lieu fees in place of building affordable units and calling for an even higher percentage of affordable homes if developers choose to build offsite from their market-rate properties.
It was an improvement over the ordinance approved in December 2020 when three incoming supervisors at the time—Bob Tiffany, Bea Gonzales and I—pleaded with that prior board during public comment to delay the item for one meeting and let the 2021 board chime in. That 2020 board went ahead and OK’d the ordinance, and it took two years for an updated version to return.
The long delay to consider changes—partly due to the pandemic and partly due to the time it took to revive the housing committee—was a major reason I insisted the 2023 board bring back the ordinance yet again within a specified timeframe of three months to address flaws.
I made that case Jan. 17 while noting a willingness to support the latest ordinance draft as long as other supervisors were open to discussing three primary revisions:
– Increasing the 15% minimum threshold to at least 20%, while I would prefer 25%.
– Requiring very low-income units as part of the affordable mix in for-sale projects.
– Eliminating in-lieu fees that allow developers to forgo affordable units if their projects are 10-plus miles from city services, large lots and on septic systems.
As for each of those crucial provisions, the 15% simply isn’t high enough when considering how drastically far behind San Benito County remains with its housing imbalance. I made the point that other surrounding communities have higher mandates and that the affordability gap for local residents points to a need for a more aggressive number.
With regard to the mix of required affordable categories in for-sale developments, there is no rationale to exclude the “very low-income” category of units from those projects. I noted how the other word often used for affordable housing is “inclusionary housing” and that leaving out the poorest residents from new subdivisions actually meets the definition of exclusionary.
That brings me to the provision that allows developers to pay in-lieu fees for projects that are far away from city services with large lots on septic. As I underscored in the meeting, all three of those traits are widely known as attributes of poorly planned developments. So with the updated ordinance, the county is still encouraging bad planning for modest payoffs.
It’s time for the county board to do what’s right. Just about every candidate who runs for office talks big and bold when it comes to affordable housing policies. The latest update to the ordinance is better than the prior one, but we have an opportunity to make it better and bolder.
San Benito County Supervisor, District 2
It strikes my funny bone when I read how government, local or otherwise, say they want to make housing affordable when it seems nothing is affordable these days, especially houses. The way to make homes affordable is to cut government costs, reduce fees across the board, eliminate some fees and streamline the approval process. It’s expensive to live in California as a recent survey done by CAR, (California Association of Realtors), noted that nearly 40% of home sellers in today’s market are moving out of state because it’s too expensive to live and own a home here. Cut costs, not just for the disadvantaged but for everyone, that’s how you make affordable housing.
I find it amusing that a sitting supervisor would know so little about planning, the general plan the housing mix, and how that economically affects San Benito county as a whole.
All housing has a negative effect on the community, tax-wise only the higher-priced houses have a positive tax return to the county. All that is fine and good but the reason that counties don’t have a lot of dense housing that would allow mixed housing concepts is “counties don’t have the infrastructure” period.
Lafco doesn’t allow leaf frog development. The city of Hollister controls all the “sphere of influence” areas around the city limits
Thinking of putting large units on septic tanks is a really bad idea, even batch plants are a problem ask Cielo vista and all their problems over the years.
Clearly, this supervisor is getting poor information or doesn’t care to get it correct.
Counties are called RURAL for a reason, they don’t have what it takes to grow as cities do.
It sounds like this supervisor has a narrative for growth that he is trying to force to happen in a limited growth area.