Sacramento County supervisors hear plea to retain affordable housing rule

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 - 7:59 am

A crowd of 30 low- income and homeless residents and advocates told Sacramento County supervisors Tuesday not to water down an affordable housing ordinance.

A county committee has recommended that the county change its 2004 ordinance to require new development to have 8 percent affordable housing instead of 15 percent. The committee is responding to the decline of the housing construction market, which also led the city of Folsom last year to drop its affordable housing requirement.

The county has hired a consultant to study the issue before bringing a proposal to the supervisors.

In the meantime, county staff members want the board to remove references to the law from a state planning document called a "housing element." The county must submit its housing plan to the California Department of Housing and Community Development this year.

Including the ordinance in the plan would lock the county into the policy for eight years, the length of time the housing plan lasts, said Planning Director Leighann Moffitt.

Supervisors directed staff to come back to the board next month with proposals for how the affordable housing ordinance might be addressed in the housing plan.

Not including the ordinance in the plan would weaken the county's commitment to affordable housing, said Bob Erlenbusch, executive director of the Sacramento Housing Alliance.

"The community needs to be sure you're not going to dismantle this landmark ordinance," he said.

While the recession has hurt developers, it has also hurt the poor, making it harder for them to get housing, he said.

The Housing Alliance successfully challenged Folsom's abandonment of its ordinance in court, saying the decision was at odds with its housing element. A judge agreed with that argument.

The city has appealed the decision, and is now proposing that the requirement be lowered from 15 to 10 percent.

Some county supervisors argued Tuesday that the ordinance has not been successful, and now is the time to let the market generate affordable housing.

"What we have seen in the last several years is that market forces override anything we can do," Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan said.

John Costa of the North State Building Industry Association said the county needs to cut back on regulations.

"The housing market is starting to recover," he said. "But we have a long way to go."

Right now, the county's affordable housing ordinance breaks down the requirements for low income, very low income and extremely low income.

The proposed change would eliminate the extremely low income category and require 4 percent of housing for low income and 4 percent for very low income.

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