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UPDATED: Officials prodded to create affordable housing

VIA urges city to help stabilize local economy

Posted: February 18, 2009 12:53 a.m.
Updated: February 18, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The Valley Industrial Association's message to the city of Santa Clarita - get going on affordable housing.

A letter prodding city officials to provide more affordable housing to help stabilize the local economy was drafted by members of the association and delivered to the city Feb. 6.

"I thought the letter was both forceful in that, here is an organization that wants certain needs met, and supportive in that (VIA) wants to work with us," said Paul Brotzman, Santa Clarita Director of Community Development.

The letter came in reaction to the city's November 2008 preliminary housing plan and the city of Santa Clarita's shortfall in affordable housing for employees and families earning between $30,000 and $60,000 per year.

The city's previous report called for more than 1,000 affordable homes, but only a handful were built, said association Vice Chair Andy Pattantyus.

According to the association, the developers built 20 affordable houses since the last report was drafted.

The number of units required by the state of California is 1,256, according to the association's letter.

"The city is not required to build a certain number of affordable housing units. The city needs to make sure there is zoning for high-density housing," said Erin Moore-Lay, Santa Clarita housing program coordinator.

Moore-Lay also said the numbers in the letter are misleading.

The state of California doesn't have a mandate for each community for certain amount of homes.

The state determines what Santa Clarita's fair share of affordable homes is and encourages the city zones for that.

The city made progress toward that goal by zoning for high-density residential, which allows for low-income units, Moore-Lay said.

The association's goal isn't to shove cheap apartments into Santa Clarita, but to market the city the same way other cities market themselves, Pattantyus said.

The association's letter blames community perception for the sparse number of rental units.

The ownership-to-rental ratio in Santa Clarita is 80 to 20 compared to 65 to 35 nationally. The community perception is that rental properties attract crime and trouble.

Moore-Lay hammered home a factor in the preference for home ownership.

"It's part of the American Dream to own a home. When loans are made available to buy as easy as they were available, people choose to buy," she said.

With the housing market in the tank, Pattantyus feels this is the perfect time for the city to commit to affordable housing.

"What is a developer going to build in this market?" he asked.

Pattantyus said the city needs to market itself as a place where working families can live.

"When you see advertising for cities trying to lure people away from California, what do they say? ‘We have a stable workforce and affordable living,'" he said.

Without workforce housing Santa Clarita will become a bedroom community and people who work in the Santa Clarita Valley will be forced into long commutes from Palmdale, Lancaster and the San Fernando Valley, he said.

"If gas goes to $5 a gallon again or (Highway 14) or the Newhall Pass shuts down and people can't get to work, that's a problem," Pattantyus said.

Senate Bill 375 asks cities to develop high-density, mixed-use housing to help people work and live in the same city, Brotzman said.

SB375 is a volunteer effort, but if the city doesn't comply, its part of regional transportation money can be yanked, Brotzman said.

Zoning reflects the city's commitment to higher density housing, Brotzman said.

The letter also mentions Senate Bill 2, which requires the city to set aside space for a homeless shelter.

The association complimented the city on a proposal to re-zone Rye Canyon Business Park, Valencia Industrial Park and Center Point Business Park to allow homeless shelters.

The City Planning Commission voted on the proposal Tuesday night and recommended the City Council pass it.

The council is slated to vote on the proposal at its March 24 meeting, Brotzman said.


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