One million, three hundred and forty thousand.
That’s the number of housing units a six-county region of Southern California must plan for by October 2029 — a figure some Santa Clarita Valley officials and residents considered “insane.”
From that number, which the California Department of Housing and Community Development determined on Aug. 22, the city of Santa Clarita is mandated by the state to prepare for thousands of new residential units, ranging from homes to condos and apartments.
But just how many homes will the Santa Clarita Valley need? That number has not yet been determined, but according to proposed methodology presented to a group of city staff, business leaders and residents Thursday, the total could vary anywhere between 12,632 and 16,256 in the next 10 years.
“(The 1.34 million) is putting out a number and establishing a process of appeals, and cities appealing each other, when they should be working together to solve housing, is creating a divisiveness and a legal process on a number that is absolutely insane at this point,” said Holly Schroeder, president and CEO of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp., during a public meeting Thursday. “Will we ever produce that?”
The 1.34 million is comprised of four income categories for the region:
- 350,998 units for very low-income levels
- 206, 338 units for low-income levels
- 225,152 units for moderate-income levels
- 562,252 units for above-moderate-income levels
At the city level, Santa Clarita’s figures could range between:
- 4,099 and 5,987 units for very low-income levels
- 2,186 and 3,812 units for low-income levels
- 2,118 and 3,823 units for moderate-income levels
- 2,634 and 4,656 units for above-moderate-income levels
The figures produced for the region and jurisdictions are known as the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, or RHNA, by which local governments calculate their fair share of the need for new housing in each jurisdiction of their member counties every eight years. The Southern California Association of Governments calculates the housing needs in its six-county region, which includes Santa Clarita.
In 2012, a projection showed that the estimated number of housing units needed in Santa Clarita for the planning period between October 2013 and September 2021 was 8,322, according to the city’s general plan. The new, proposed cycle of the RHNA for the next eight years falls between October 2021 and October 2029, which is set for adoption by October 2020.
During the public presentation at The Centre, Ma’Ayn Johnson, housing and land use planner for SCAG, shared that regional housing needs are determined by looking into factors such as household growth, transit activity, recent building permit activity, job centers and overcrowding.
SCAG has come up with three options on what the methodology for determining the need for housing within each jurisdiction could look like:
- Option 3: Heavily based on local input on growth. With feedback received on household growth, this option uses a share of the 1.34 million to determine a draft RHNA for every jurisdiction.
- Option 2: No local input involved. This option looks into shares of population and populations within high-quality transit areas, which feature frequent transit service or major transit stations that are located throughout communities within SCAG’s coverage area.
- Option 1: A hybrid of the previous options and separates existing needs from projected needs. Under existing need, factors include the share of population, proximity to transit areas and share of regional undersupply of building permits issued. Projected need relies on local input on household growth.
Several comments from RHNA subcommittees and stakeholders on the options question whether local input has to play a role and may or may not be included in the final methodology, said Johnson.
“Who knows their population better than local entities,” said Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McLean, who helped organize the Thursday meeting. “For somebody to say that local input does not have a place, that’s ridiculous.”
How much should local input play a role is a question being considered as, in the past, some jurisdictions have been accused of “lowballing their numbers,” said Johnson.
The city is preparing a letter to offer SCAG feedback on the proposed methodology, which will include the belief that there should be a bonus for having entitled units and to have a criteria on the share of population within high-quality transit areas, according to Jason Crawford, planning, marketing and economic development manager with the city.
“We expect to have a comment letter by the end of next week that specifically talks about the allocation and methodologies and makes some suggestions that we believe will be in the best interest of our community that still results in additional housing and jobs here in a balanced way,” said Crawford.
SCAG is seeking public comments on its three options or additional ones for its proposed methodology through Sept. 13. After the comment period, the final option will be recommended to the Regional Council for approval at its Nov. 7 meeting.