Housing plan gets rubber-stamp approval from Elk Grove Planning Commission

During the hour-plus-long staff presentation, the city's housing planning manager Sarah Bontrager and the city's innovations czar Christopher Jordan explained in detail the process which has been underway for over one year. One of the most important aspects included is the so-called RHiNA requirements.

RHiNA - Regional Housing Needs Allocation - is the legally required process that distributes low and very low-income housing regionally. Elk Grove's housing plan largely focuses on where multi-family apartment units, which has been the city's emphasis, are located.

After the presentation, the planning commissioner asked primarily administrative questions about the process and there were limited inquiries on the staff's recommended housing sites. Not coincidentally, three of the five planning commissioners have less than two months of service and one has about seven months.  

Commission chair George Murphey, who has served since 2007, questioned Jordan about inclusionary housing. According to Inclusionaryhousing.org, the process of  "inclusionary housing program might require developers to sell or rent 10 to 30 percent of new residential units to lower-income residents."

Responded to Murphey, Jordan said developers have been resistant to include this in their projects.  Real estate developers, who hold great sway in the city with their substantial campaign donations to city councilmembers, prefer developing market-rate housing because it offers fatter profit margins. 

"We don't have the players at the table at this point to have a constructive conversation around it," Jordan stated.

During public comment, one of two speakers was Elk Grove resident Lynn Wheat who said the lack of inclusionary housing in Elk Grove can be traced to the low impact fees imposed on developers by the city. 

"I believe their fees are so low, that there is nothing to encourage them to participate in to build affordable housing within their subdivisions," Wheat said. "I'm hearing a lot of how we can't do it, I would like to hear how we can make it possible."

Wheat also touched on an affordable housing issue noting developers are "building a lot of market rate for people who are moving over from the Bay Area making it extremely difficult for any young people within our region to move into a home or have that ability to purchase a home."

The Elk Grove City Council is required to adopt the housing plan by May 15. Jordan said a public hearing is expected at the May 12 city council meeting, where the five members are likely to approve the planning commission and staff recommendations. 

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