City seeking $625K in housing grant

Houses in the Santa Clarita Valley near Copper Hill Drive. Katharine Lotze/Signal

After the passage of state law in 2017 aimed at increasing California’s housing supply, Santa Clarita is seeking $625,000 in state grant funding to help lay the groundwork for new housing over the next eight years.  

The city is applying for its share of $123 million in non-competitive grants from Senate Bill 2’s planning grants program. The legislation established an ongoing source of funding intended to increase the affordable housing stock in California amid the state’s housing shortage and rising costs. 

While much of the funds will go toward housing production, 5% is set aside for local governments’ “planning efforts that accelerate housing production and streamline the approvals of housing,” according to the state Department of Housing and Community Development, which administers the grants program. 

SB2’s impact on cities is that it will help local governments “be more ready to help developers” since “cities don’t develop housing,” Karalee Browne, program manager at the Insitute for Local Government, said in a July statement.  

“Their processes are going to be faster and more nimble,” she added. “I think the planning is going to be in place so when a developer comes with a project, they’re going to be more able to react to it.”

Santa Clarita is eligible to request $625,000 based on its population of more than 200,000. 

“If we are successful in receiving these funds, we will use the money to evaluate opportunities to encourage housing development that is consistent with the needs of our community,” said Patrick Leclair, senior planner with the city.  

More closely, Santa Clarita would use funds to update its “Housing Element,” a section of the city general plan that instructs how many and what types of homes must be built for the 2021-29 planning period, in order to meet the local and regional housing goals and comply with state production requirements. 

The definite number of units the city needs to build has not been solidified as proposed methodologies on how to calculate a production figure per jurisdiction is in the works. 

But that local number could be 12,978 units, of which more than 4,000 would be designated as “very-low-income units,” if the Southern California Association of Governments — an agency that calculates the housing needs in its six-county region, including Santa Clarita — approves the methodology, according to Jason Crawford, a city planning manager. 

Grant monies would also help fund plans to expand the revitalization of Old Town Newhall and update the city’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a city staff report. 

The city submitted an application for funding in December to meet the deadline and grants are expected to be awarded in June. The City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a resolution that authorizes the application, which is needed to complete the application process, the staff report said. 

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