SACRAMENTO – Today, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that an additional three communities, the city of El Cerrito and the counties of Placer and Sacramento, have earned the state’s Prohousing Designation. Cities and counties earn Prohousing designations by adopting ordinances and processes that cut red tape and speed up housing approvals in their own communities. Being designated Prohousing gives jurisdictions a leg up in securing state housing and infrastructure funding.
Why it’s important: It is vital for local governments to cut red tape and implement policies that increase needed housing in California. Accountability measures and incentives like the Prohousing Designation are critical to help meet the goal of 2.5 million new homes over the next eight years, with at least one million serving the needs of lower-income Californians.
What Governor Newsom said: “The Prohousing Designation is the result of communities stepping up and being proactive when it comes to their commitment to build more housing, faster in California,” said Governor Newsom. “Under my Administration, the old practices of stalling and denying developments by local governments will not be tolerated. Jurisdictions can either be part of the solution or be held accountable. I commend this latest group added to our Prohousing Designation and look forward to seeing more communities throughout the state join us in this effort.”
Communities that earn the Prohousing Designation receive incentives such as additional points or other preferences in the scoring of competitive funding programs administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), giving them an advantage over other jurisdictions.
“Building more housing statewide and increasing the availability of affordable homes for working Californians, families with children and individuals exiting homelessness is critical to bettering the quality of life for all Californians,” said Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency Secretary Lourdes Castro Ramírez. “Combining state housing investments with tools like the California Prohousing Designation will enable communities like El Cerrito, and the counties of Placer and Sacramento to produce more housing options quickly and create more equitable communities.”
These jurisdictions join seven others recognized for a commitment to policies that increase housing supply such as accelerating production, promoting equitable and sustainable zoning and land use, reducing development costs, and providing financial subsidies. They are also eligible for the Prohousing Incentive Pilot (PIP) Program that rewards Prohousing communities for such commitments.
Governor Newsom’s Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget established the Prohousing Designation Program as part of a spectrum of support, incentives, and accountability measures to help meet California’s goal of 2.5 million new homes over the next eight years, with at least one million of those homes serving the need of lower-income Californians.
Prohousing jurisdictions are also eligible for community development resources through the new Prohousing Incentive Pilot (PIP) Program. The competitive program has $25.7 million in additional flexible funding available to help accelerate housing production and expand the preservation of affordable housing.
“California continues to deploy a comprehensive set of strategies to increase housing supply, including unprecedented investment, incentives like those attained through the Prohousing Designation, and holding local governments accountable for meeting community housing needs,” HCD Director Gustavo Velasquez said. “We look forward to continuing our investment in these efforts, as we work together to build 2.5 million homes statewide by 2030.”
To earn the Prohousing Designation, cities and counties must demonstrate they are promoting climate-smart housing by enacting Prohousing policies, including but not limited to streamlining multifamily housing development, up-zoning in places near jobs and transit to reduce emissions, and creating more affordable homes in places that historically or currently exclude households earning lower incomes and households of color.
Placer County (awarded January 3) is the first county in California to receive the Prohousing Designation. One of the county’s application highlights is the increase of height limits in several multifamily zones to expand housing opportunities. The county also developed a universal entitlement application to expedite permit processing and created zoning to allow for Tiny Homes on Wheels, increasing housing choices while concurrently mitigating the impacts of fire hazards. Lastly, the county has established consistent funding for its local housing trust fund to both preserve workforce housing and to purchase additional sites for affordable housing development.
The City of El Cerrito is promoting innovative housing types, notably the multi-phase Mayfair Project, which received local housing trust funds and utilizes modular housing technology to reduce cost and building times. In addition, El Cerrito implemented a post-entitlement process to further accelerate and streamline housing development. As another example, the San Pablo Avenue Specific Plan prioritizes mixed-use housing in conjunction with transit-oriented development and implements form-based zoning with program-level environmental review. Lastly, a variety of housing types are approved ministerially, such as multifamily residential land uses and projects complying with objective design standards, thus significantly reducing review times and providing increased approval certainty to project developers.
Sacramento County’s application highlights include the modification of development standards and other applicable zoning provisions to promote greater development intensity. In addition, the county provides impact fee reductions for residential development and permits “missing middle” housing in typically lower-density, single-family residential zones. Lastly, the county uses holistic planning strategies in an effort to reduce vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions.
What local elected officials are saying:
“It’s a point of pride for Placer County to be a state leader in our efforts to streamline affordable housing projects, highlighting infill projects that help us grow responsibly and reduce commutes for our residents,” said Jim Holmes, chair of the Placer County Board of Supervisors. “Becoming the first county to earn a Prohousing Designation allows our community development staff and our development partners to be as competitive as possible to capture grant dollars for construction and maintain affordability for homebuyers.”
“Sacramento County has recently updated its Zoning Code to allow for streamlined residential development by allowing additional residential projects to be allowed by-right, and establishing a ‘minor’ level use permit for certain deviations from the Zoning Code,” said Rich Desmond, chair of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. “This streamlining has allowed an expedited permitting process, which will accelerate housing development in the County, including the development of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Ongoing Zoning Code updates to implement the County’s certified Housing Element will further promote housing in key infill corridors, further reducing vehicle miles traveled and associated greenhouse gas emissions. Staff have proactively engaged with key stakeholders in infill corridors to identify and address constraints to further housing development.”
“El Cerrito has worked very hard to bring new housing to our community over many years through our San Pablo Avenue Specific Plan and its recent amendment, supporting streamlining and flexibility to support all types of housing development, but especially more affordable housing,” said El Cerrito Mayor Lisa Motoyama. “We know that is what keeps our city vibrant. We are so excited to achieve the ProHousing designation so that we can be an example to other small cities of what can be done when we are good partners with HCD. Kudos to our city staff for making it happen!”
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