Why is everyone talking about housing? Housing is too expensive and there are not enough homes. Many Scotts Valley workers cannot afford to live here, which increases traffic and makes it harder for businesses to hire and keep good staff.
Some residents would like Scotts Valley to remain a small town, while others would like their grown kids to be able to afford to live nearby. Other residents are concerned that there is not enough water to supply new homes.
Residents cite challenges like the high cost; strict zoning regulations; historical politics that have limited new housing; not enough smaller homes; shortage of building sites; and a long building process.
Since 1969, the state has required cities and counties to plan for more housing, but there is still a statewide housing crisis. Recently, the state has blamed cities for the lack of housing and in response the legislature has passed new laws largely taking away local control to regulate housing developments.
Planning for more housing takes place in every city and county across the state in eight-year cycles. All cities and counties must have a certified Housing Element or face increasingly serious compliance and legal consequences.
This year is Scotts Valley’s turn to update our Housing Element, with almost nine times more housing units than we were assigned in the last cycle.
What is Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA)?
RHNA is a statewide determination of needed housing units split into regional allocations through a convoluted, political process. It initiates the Housing Element update process and quantifies the number of housing units each city must plan for by income category, based upon future population growth, employment and households.
Scotts Valley’s mandated RHNA for 2023-2031 is 1,220 new housing units, of which about 65% are expected to be affordable units. Specifically, Scotts Valley must plan for 392 very-low income units, 257 low-income units, 154 moderate-income units and 417 above moderate-income units.
What is a Housing Element?
The Housing Element is a required part of the city’s General Plan. It must be adopted by each city (or county) and be certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). The Housing Element includes an evaluation of constraints and resources for housing development; identification of sites to accomplish housing goals; and an evaluation of current programs.
A new requirement this time around is called “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” analysis, which looks at the socioeconomics of where housing is planned across the city. Many cities are struggling with certification over this new requirement. In addition, the state is requiring more “evidence” that the housing units identified in each city’s Housing Element are likely to be built in the next cycle, not just that they would be allowed to be built.
How will Scotts Valley plan for 1,220 new homes?
Strategies will focus on rezoning and identifying opportunity sites. The city will consider projects already being planned, accessory dwelling units (ADU’s), Town Center Specific Plan capacity, vacant and underutilized residential properties, and opportunity sites in areas with access to infrastructure, community services and public transportation. Considering we only have around 4,500 housing units now, adding 1,220 will require creativity and compromise.
What about water?
Local residents and businesses have collectively reduced water consumption by 22% over the last ten years, which has allowed our water table to remain stable. In addition, the Santa Margarita Groundwater Agency has produced a water sustainability plan, as required by the state, which provides a roadmap to achieve groundwater sustainability by 2042.
What is the schedule for updating the Housing Element?
- Jan. 26: Workshop #1
- March 15: City Council meeting
- April 5: Planning Commission and City Council joint study session focused on candidate sites review, RHNA strategies, underutilized sites, opportunity sites for rezoning and other topics
- May 2023: Workshop #2 and public review of draft housing element
- Summer 2023: Planning Commission and City Council joint study session
- September 2023: First draft submittal to HCD
- Winter 2023: Housing element statutory deadline and adoption hearings
- Spring 2024: 120-day buffer for certification with HCD
How can residents engage with the city regarding the Housing Element process?
Visit the city’s Housing Element webpage to stay informed of when these meetings get scheduled and sign up for updates. You can also watch recordings of previous meetings. We want to hear from you on how we can together plan for our future housing needs, while also preserving our hometown quality of life.
Jack Dilles is mayor for the City of Scotts Valley. To reach Dilles, email [email protected] or call 831-566-3180.