The Calaveras County Planning Department presented its annual progress report for the Housing Element of the General Plan at the Board of Supervisors meeting on May 28, revealing a shortage of new homes – particularly low-income units – according to state standards.
The report showed that the county must build 485 new homes in 2019 in order to meet the 1,079 unit recommendation that was issued by the state in its Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA).
The current RHNA covers a five-year period, beginning in 2014 and ending in 2019.
Out of a total of 597 new housing units built in Calaveras County since 2014, only 190 were categorized as very low- or low-income homes, according to the report. The county must build 226 new units within those categories, and 259 above moderate income homes in 2019 in order to meet RHNA recommendations.
Last year yielded the lowest number of new homes within the five-year period so far, with only 45 units built in 2018.
There are no penalties currently enforced by the state for not meeting RHNA standards, according to Planning Director Peter Maurer, however that could change in coming years.
“There are a number of pieces of legislation going through Sacramento that propose to link meeting the RHNA allocations to funding of a variety of things, particularly with transportation funding,” Maurer told the board. “There is a lot of pushback on that. So far, the proposals over the last years have not been successful in Sacramento, but every year the government and Legislature proposes new things to try to emphasize the construction of housing, particularly affordable housing. It’s a much bigger problem, obviously, in the Bay Area and other urban centers. ... But the usual attempt by the Legislature is a one-size-fits-all approach.”
Maurer added that RHNA recommendations for Calaveras County may decrease in the next five-year period due to a decline in population growth.
The report also highlighted recent steps taken by the department to expedite the process of homeowners building accessory dwelling units by eliminating extra permits and making the process more affordable.
According to Maurer, there are limited ways in which a jurisdiction can encourage housing development, which is largely controlled by the private sector.
“I think the biggest issue really is the cost of construction,” Maurer said. “You’re paying $300 per square foot for the construction of a new home. That really prices a lot of people out of the market. We really need to look at other ways that we can reduce cost. Much of that is simply cost of materials, cost of land, cost of labor and mandates that the state has on building code, fire code, those kinds of things. So there (are) a lot of constraints that we have. The state is expecting the cities and counties to come up with solutions that, in many cases, are out of our control.”
The county’s updated General Plan is currently in the public hearing stages, scheduled to conclude in early June.