CARLSBAD — The city is meeting its housing needs.
Senior Planner Scott Donnell presented to the housing commission on Sept. 22 a preliminary draft report of the current state of the city’s Housing Element.
This was the first step in the process, which will be followed by the completed report being submitted to the state and approval from the planning and housing commissions and city council in 2017.
The Housing Element was approved as part of the General Plan in September 2015, and provides an eight-year plan from 2013-21. State law, though, requires a mid-planning update, which covers from April 30, 2017 through April 29, 2021.
“This is really the start of the process,” Donnell said. “There are more opportunities for people to weigh in.”
The law is designed to provide safe, decent and affordable housing. Also, the element’s purposes are twofold. First, it provides an assessment of both current and future needs and constraints; and second, a strategy establishing goals, policies and programs.
According to the report, city staff does not anticipate any significant changes to the current Housing Element. This is primarily because the current General Plan and Housing Elements were adopted last year and remain “relevant and effective.”
However, data will be updated to show changes in areas such as demographics, approved projects, available vacant land, development fee schedule and others.
“We are meeting our needs,” Donnell said. “We still continue to show adequate sites to accommodate growth projections. These are draft numbers. We’re still working on finalizing everything.”
Carlsbad’s needs, meanwhile, are in line with state requirements in three of four categories. Combining current or approved development projects, vacant and underutilized land capacity, the city’s has a surplus of 411 units for very low-to-low income housing.
The above moderate housing need has a surplus of 1,023 units, while moderate housing is at a deficit of 91 units. However, because of the number of very low-to-low income housing, the city is still in compliance with state law, Donnell said.
Development projects account for 2,645 possible units, vacant land capacity sits at 1,948 and underutilized land capacity at 1,749, according to the draft.
The report did cite one development, Santa Fe Ranch near Stagecoach Park, as an outlier to the current policy. The development was part of the preservation of at-risk housing program, which is being removed because Santa Fe Ranch was the only development of its kind.
Santa Fe Ranch, which was constructed about 30 years ago, was an affordable housing complex consisting of 64 units. However, Donnell said, the developer repaid tax-exempt bonds and converted 38 units into market rate residences.
The developer had the option to pay off the bonds, which it did, although the city was able to assist in rent negotiations to keep 26 units as affordable housing.
So, as the project has transitioned to market rate and does not remain under the program, it was eliminated.
“It was the developer’s choice,” Donnell said. “That program was set up to monitor should that happen. As a result, we were able to go in an assist about one-third of the renters despite their units converting.”
As for the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, the state has projected, through an allocation provided by the San Diego Area of Governments (SANDAG), 4,999 units, which is about three percent of the overall regional need for the county through 2020.
“As long as we can show that we’ve got land available to meet that or that we’ve approved projects to meet those needs, we’re in good shape,” Donnell said.