Posted on Freedom Advocates on March 3rd 2004
By [post_author] –
Summary: Santa Cruz County officials claim that the Housing Element is necessary to solve a housing shortage problem, but once it is approved and goes into effect, residents will not have many of the common amenities now available. By this analysis, the only housing choice available to most families will be dense multi-family units with limited parking.
At first glance the Housing Element prepared by the Planning Department of Santa Cruz County seems to have best interests of its’ local citizens at heart. Most individuals, including me, would initially view these goals as legitimate and needed, since Santa Cruz County is experiencing a shortage of affordable housing. However, after reading the 220-page draft of the Housing Element, it is clear that the County of Santa Cruz is trying to implement a plan that forces citizens into designated and dense living units.
The Planning Department sets forth six housing goals in the Housing Element Draft, which will hinder individuals’ choice of where to live. These goals include promoting the production of affordable housing units, promoting the use of available sites for construction, preserving the existing housing programs, maintaining and increasing funds for affordable units, increasing the production of special needs housing, and improving conservation of energy and natural resources.
How The Draft Will Limit Housing Choices
According to the Draft Housing Element, individuals who chose to live in rural areas within the county will be punished. Properties within the rural services line are not promised services such as water, sewer, fire protection, and road maintenance, yet these vital services are promised to those living within the urban services line. The lack of services may prompt people to move into the city.
In order to build and maintain affordable housing, the Draft proposes removing constraints that have a negative impact on the development of multi-family units and housing for low- and moderate-income households. No mention is given to loosening constraints for single-family homes, which gives an incentive for individuals to live in multi-family units. The Draft also proposes amending the height restrictions for multi-family housing, but not single-family housing, further favoring dense neighborhoods.
Adequate parking is critical, especially when living in dense areas. The Draft stresses that parking should not be considered an obstacle for the affordable housing plan and calls for two off-street parking spaces per bedroom. This seems reasonable. However, the Draft continues to note that at any time the County can make a reduction in the number of parking spaces, based on demand. The County plans on lowering parking demand with “transit passes, carpool programs, and documentation of reduced need.” In addition, elderly housing units are not held to the same parking standard as other housing units; they are regularly “granted” reduced parking spaces. Examples include Vista Prieta, Paloma de Mar, and Pajaro Vista.
Santa Cruz County officials claim that the Housing Element is necessary to solve a housing shortage problem, but once the Housing Element is approved and goes into effect, residents will not have many of the luxuries now available. In essence, the only housing choice available to most families will be dense multi-family units with limited parking.
There must be a better way.
Draft Housing Element Herds Residents into Dense Communities by Colleen Shaw