City establishes financing agency for workforce housing projects

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal

The city of Santa Clarita recently moved one step closer toward introducing workforce housing in the city.  

The Santa Clarita City Council authorized city staff last week to enter into an agreement with the California Municipal Finance Authority (CMFA), which issues bonds to help finance projects like workforce hosing.  

The agreement formed a joint powers authority, or JPA, that would own the housing intended for middle-income households, which the city defined as between 80%-120% of Santa Clarita’s median income of $80,000 per year. 

The housing, said Michael Villegas, the city’s community preservation officer, would be for households that make “a good living, but not enough to afford … market-rate apartments or to get into a brand-new house. 

“We definitely want something that makes sense for them in terms of where it’s located within the city, proximity to their work (and the) amenities that they’re looking for,” he said, noting middle-income earners like first responders and teachers. 

That agreement between the city and CMFA, according to Villegas, is meant “to show that (the city is) definitely interested in workforce housing and (to) take that first initial step to have project administrators come talk to us and offer us potential projects.” 

Two proposals from private entities interested in creating workforce housing in Santa Clarita triggered the city’s deliberations on workforce housing. 

The city rejected both proposals citing infeasibility and misalignment with community needs. 

“More than anything, the reason we deemed these other two infeasible was because the savings … did not pencil out,” said Villegas, noting that renters would not realize savings that warrant the cost of buying or building workforce housing. 

Before receiving those proposals, the city was contacted in May by several affordable housing developers inquiring about the city’s interest in developing workforce housing. The City Council’s Development Committee held three meetings in May and June to discuss the city’s response to developer interest. 

Villegas said the city would follow the same path before bringing a proposal to the City Council for its review. 

City staff are currently reviewing a third workforce housing proposal that calls for new construction. 

“We recently met with them (and) we’re currently running numbers and making sense of all the documentation they provided,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday. 

The City Council would need to approve the proposal before any workforce housing is built or existing market-rate housing is converted to workforce housing. 

“To ensure that we’re completely transparent, (the city) only entered into the JPA to take that first step,” Villegas said. “If we identify a project, we will take it to the City Council, get the City Council’s input, be completely transparent as part of the process and then execute a document.” 

More workforce housing proposals may be in the city’s future, said Villegas. 

“We’re really just kind of waiting and seeing to see if there’s any proposal that comes to light,” he said. 

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