The San Benito County Board of Supervisors approved amendments to the county’s affordable housing ordinance, which include a requirement for future housing developments within 10 miles of an incorporated city to offer affordable units.
The board voted 5-0 this week to approve the amendments based on recommendations made by the county planning commission on July 19.
Stephanie Reck, associate planner with the San Benito County Planning and Land Use Department, gave a presentation to the board detailing the upgraded language of the affordable housing ordinance that reflected the amendments. In tandem with the 10-mile affordable housing stipulation, planning staff recommended an amendment to restructure the affordable unit percentage required by state law to increase the number of low-income and very-low income units.
In a third amendment, the current Housing Advisory Committee (HAC), which was formed earlier this year to help steer the county toward its affordable housing goals, was called to be dissolved. The HAC served as an initial review body for new affordable housing plans within the county, with the planning commission and the board of supervisors, respectively, being the last to review these.
“This process appeared to be redundant, so the inclusion of the Housing Advisory Committee and their purpose has been removed in entirety from this chapter,” Reck said, referring to the amendment.
The 10-mile radius affordable housing requirement would cover a span of 10 miles beginning at the outer city limits of cities within San Benito County. This includes the cities of Hollister and San Juan Bautista.
Reck explained that the new recommendations were modeled after similar requirements implemented by the Housing Authority of nearby Santa Cruz County.
“The [San Benito] Housing Authority determined that affordable housing any farther than the 10-mile radius of an incorporated city is an unreasonable distance to amenities such as a grocery store, shopping centers or public transportation,” Reck said.
This amendment calls for any new residential developments within the 10-mile area to adhere to the 15% affordable housing requirement set by the county. If a developer proposes a project outside of the 10-mile radius, the amendment calls for a 20% requirement at the discretion of the planning commission and the board of supervisors for affordable units. Units in that category will have to be built off-site of the proposed residential development, which would be priced at market rate.
The final amendment to the county’s affordable housing ordinance relates to the 20% affordable unit requirement for those residential developments that plan to build outside the 10-mile radius.
Planning staff recommended that the current breakdown of the 20% requirement distribute more evenly among low income families. Previously, the breakdown was 5% for very-low income; 10% for low-income and 5% for moderate-income. The new amendment will allot 7.5% for very-low income; 7.5% for low income and keep it at 5% for moderate-income.
District 2 Supervisor Kollin Kosmicki was glad to see the amendments move forward. He highlighted that these amendments would also require developers applying to build within the 10-mile radius to commit to providing affordable units instead of simply paying a fee, which had been an option previously.
He also said that he would like to see the county’s 15% affordable housing requirement increased.
“Fifteen for me is a start. I’m hoping that we can continue to monitor this and see if maybe it could make sense to go higher than 15,” Kosmicki said. “Other communities around us have been higher than 15.”