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The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved the 2023 Housing Element, a plan that will serve as a roadmap to meet projected housing needs in the unincorporated areas of the county through 2031.

Required by jurisdictions throughout California every eight years, the housing element is one chapter in the general plan that shows state regulators how and where the county can place housing units. It includes zoning and other changes in sites throughout the county.

The Housing Element is not a building plan. Instead, it lays out areas of the county where housing units can be developed.

This includes rental and factory-built housing, mobile homes, and emergency shelters, in addition to farmworker housing.

The approval of the housing element comes in the midst of rising housing costs, which is forcing many low-income people to flee the county in search of less expensive homes and rentals.

“We’re in a housing crisis, and this is one of the steps that we can take to go about solving that and doing our part for the housing element,” said Stephanie Hansen, assistant director of the county’s Planning Department.

The element is due to the California Department of Housing and Community Development for review and final certification by Dec. 31.

The county last updated its Housing Element in 2015. 

The sixth cycle housing element also shows how the county will accommodate its state-required Regional Needs Housing Allocation (RHNA) of 4,634 units of varying income levels. More than half are designated for those with low and very low incomes.

A failure to plan for RHNA numbers could mean a loss of state funding.

“Housing and housing costs impact local government’s ability to provide quality services, our business community’s ability to attract and retain a highly-qualified workforce, and most importantly the ability of our residents to provide a stable and secure environment for their families,” County Administrative Officer Carlos Palacios said. “Few things are more important than stable housing, and this plan provides an opportunity to improve housing access for all residents living in unincorporated areas of the county.”

Included in the plan is the rezoning of 75 sites throughout the county. This includes the former Par 3 golf course at 2600 Mar Vista Drive, a 14-acre parcel that one day could hold as many as 430 housing units.

The adopted Housing Element comes after a “robust community engagement process,” Principal Planner Mark Connolly said.  

This included two focus groups—one of citizens and one of businesses and groups involved in housing—both of which agreed that they wanted more multiple-family housing units at higher densities and heights, as well as workforce housing for teachers.

The groups also asked for an expedited permitting process, housing for people with disabilities and more housing along transportation corridors.

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA.


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