One theme that is running through any discussion on homelessness locally is the root cause of a lack of affordable housing in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Even people with a rental roof over their heads or living in senior housing are finding it increasingly difficult to stay housed.
In fact, with monthly reports of rising home values, rising rent rates and increasingly sparse available new housing, Santa Clarita is becoming the poster child of impossible-to-find homes – leaving the truly homeless with little choice and little hope.
And it has been noted in many discussions and forums that those without shelter are from the Santa Clarita Valley, not transients. They want to live in their hometown – just like you and I do.
It’s time the Santa Clarita City Council takes a serious look at an official affordable housing policy that will help alleviate this problem that some citizens in the community have been shouting about for years now. This means coming up with clear guidelines within the city that promote more affordable housing.
Mayor Cameron Smyth said at a city Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness meeting this week that he wanted the next meeting to focus on affordable housing. We hope this is the beginning of a move to create such a policy.
Councilwoman Marsha McLean, the second member of the two-member ad hoc committee, said the city isn’t in the housing development business, while City Council members and staff seem to think the responsibility resides with developers. She did say that if developers wanted to come to Santa Clarita and build affordable housing, the city wouldn’t say no.
But without some incentives to build that type of housing, it is unlikely to come about. It is far more lucrative to build half-million-dollar homes; we’ve seen plenty of those put up over in the past several years.
What would these incentives be and what would a formal city affordable housing policy look like? Perhaps lower fees or fee waivers for development or a requirement that a certain amount of housing in any development must be “affordable.”
The policy should require developers to set aside a certain percentage of their housing projects to affordable housing before the city issues permits to build.
The expert staffers at City Hall should take a look at the options and the City Council itself should engage the community in developing a workable policy.
We are not advocating the development of scores of “Section 8” housing projects throughout our valley. Our city can come up with more creative solutions than that. Certainly we wouldn’t be asking Santa Clarita to go where no city has gone before. And it could do it in Santa Clarita style – before the state decides to force a homelessness program on its uncompliant municipalities.
The time has come, however, to focus seriously on the problem of lack of affordable housing.
The passage of the L.A. County Measure H initiative has put an emphasis on homelessness and some money behind ways to fix it. But there is a huge bureaucracy behind that engine, and just how much Santa Clarita will get from the measure remains to be seen. The city needs to be aggressively coming up with its own solutions – no matter what resources it gets from the county.
Affordable housing is a huge problem in this valley, as it is nationwide. The city needs to stop pretending it’s in a bubble and deal with it.