Placer adopts updated General Plan Housing Element, pledges additional $575,000 for affordable housing efforts
Published on May 12, 2021
The Placer County Board of Supervisors on May 11 adopted the county’s comprehensive update of its General Plan Housing Element - outlining its policies and programs to meet existing and projected housing needs for all Placer residents through 2029.
State law requires that the adopted Housing Element be submitted to the Department of Housing and Community Development for final review and certification.
The update aligns county housing policy with recent state housing law changes and affirms Placer’s comprehensive approach to facilitating and encouraging the development of more affordable housing in its unincorporated areas. It includes 58 policies (23 are new) and 49 programs (28 are new)
“Housing affordability is one of our community’s biggest challenges. Not just for our residents, but also for our businesses, who will struggle to hire and grow if their employees can’t afford quality housing for their families,” said Board Chair Robert Weygandt. “This is a long-term, complex issue, and it won’t be solved overnight. But our Housing Element lays out practical, sustainable solutions that will have an immediate and lasting impact.”
State law requires local jurisdictions to update the housing element of their general plan at least every eight years. A major function of housing elements is to identify policy or zoning changes that may be needed to allow developers to build enough housing to meet the needs of current and future Placer residents across all income ranges.
The adopted Housing Element reflects three years of extensive community feedback, through community workshops and focused surveys on the housing challenges residents are experiencing and the housing options they’d most like to see. The policies and programs have been honed over the years in response to that feedback, targeting barriers to the development of more affordable housing in particular.
“We’ve taken an exhaustive look at every layer of the housing crisis and ‘Placer-ized’ the best practices we could find from around the country to address every single one of them,” said Shawna Purvines, deputy director of Placer’s Community Development Resource Agency. “Government alone can’t solve this, but we are doing everything within our power to help our community partners and developers provide the housing options our residents in all income ranges want and need.”
With continued population growth in the Sacramento region expected over the coming years, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments projects Placer will need another 7,854 housing units by 2029 - 7,419 in western Placer and 485 in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Local governments are responsible under state law for ensuring that enough land in their jurisdictions is appropriately zoned to allow for construction of those units.
Placer County already has enough land zoned to accommodate needed single-family homes, typically affordable for those with incomes in the moderate and above-moderate income range. But there is not yet enough land zoned for smaller or multifamily units for Placer to meet its state obligation for housing affordable to lower-income households without further zoning changes. The shortfall is about 1,100 units.
To address that, without rezoning a single acre of open space or agricultural land, Placer’s Housing Element calls for exploring housing density changes over the next three years in certain areas already zoned for higher-density residential or commercial development. The Housing Element identifies 32 possible rezone sites totaling 165 acres for consideration. Placer will study the sites for development feasibility, infrastructure capacity and proximity to services like public transportation.
Some of these sites must be rezoned by May 15, 2024, to ensure Placer meets its regional housing needs allocation and the Housing Element remains in compliance with state law. Depending on the density increase that’s practical for the selected sites, the total acreage requiring rezoning ranges between 36 and 55 acres.
The board on Tuesday also approved a funding plan that would provide an additional $575,000 to Housing Trust Placer for more affordable housing projects. Placer supported the launch of the private trust in 2019 to encourage contributions from private, public and nonprofit partners to help accelerate housing construction.
The funding plan includes an initial $75,000 for start-up costs and an additional $500,000 as a cash match to private contributions to the trust to support affordable housing projects and programs.
Placer County manages a public housing trust, supported by developer fees that are used to help fund a variety of affordable housing projects and existing housing programs. Housing Trust Placer offers more flexibility to accept and incentivize private donations and to leverage funds for grants, providing more opportunities for the private sector to contribute housing solutions.