El Cerrito, Placer and Sacramento County designated as ‘prohousing’ communities

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California Construction News staff writer

Sacramento County, Placer County, and the city of El Cerrito have been designated as prohousing communities and are eligible for funding and resources through state grant programs to speed the production of housing. That brings the total to 10 California communities with the 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 makes it easier to secure state housing and infrastructure funding.

“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 Gavin 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 and look forward to seeing more communities throughout the state join us in this effort.”

Local governments are encouraged to cut red tape and implement policies that increase needed housing in California.  Accountability measures and incentives are designed to help state 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.

Designated communities receive 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 Lourdes Castro Ramírez, business, consumer services and housing agency secretary. “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.”

Placer County’s application highlights 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, including 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.

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