Carol Murota, LWVDV Observer Chair
Affordable housing, available housing, any housing - housing writ large - is an overwhelming concern in our state and our community. Everyone responds in different ways. To find out more, I recently met with Lafayette’s Interim City Manager, Niroop Srivatsa. I learned our California legislature is considering some 200 bills that address housing. To keep apprised of and to improve the city’s input into these bills, Lafayette hired a legislative advocacy firm who tracks and regularly reports on the progress of bills at city council meetings [another good reason to be a League Observer]. With this firm’s help, and the efforts of many other cities across the state, the Mayors Council was able to stop SB 50. This bill would have overridden locally developed and adopted height limitations, housing densities, and parking requirements, and would have allowed fourplexes on all residential lots within California.
From my seat as a League Observer in city council meetings, I see that some Lafayette residents want affordable housing especially for community members who currently commute into Lafayette – people who teach their children, provide public safety [like police and fire fighters], work in local businesses, and are a part of the fabric of this semi-rural residential city. But not all residents know Lafayette must also meet the State’s housing requirement.
The state assesses a Regional Housing Need Allocation [RHNA] number for each community based on projected housing needs. Lafayette’s RHNA number is 400 units for the period 2015 to 2023 with the following designations: 138 units for very low income households, 78 units for lower-income households, 85 units for moderate-income households, and 99 units for above-moderate-income households. (Independent of the RHNA requirements, Lafayette requires that 15% of new residential development built in the downtown area be priced at below market rates.)
The city is in a difficult position. It is required by the State to meet its RHNA number. The city itself cannot build the housing required by the State, nor does it have the money to incentivize housing production. It can only respond to developers who propose projects. At the same time, as I sit in city council meetings, I hear that some residents want housing projects placed near public transit, others feel there is too much building going on or want projects slowed to give new residents time to become part of this semi-rural community. It is a delicate balancing act.
Given these complications, it is notable that Lafayette has issued 154 permits since 2015. In the next few months 177 housing units are expected to “pull” building permits. Fifty-five units are under current review. The Town Center III project added 69 units of centrally located condominiums, seven of which are below market rate. The city anticipates developers will submit more projects in the coming years to continue to bring affordable housing to Lafayette without changing the essential semi-rural character of this small city.
You can comment on building projects, attend any public meetings, and respond at the City Council meetings. https://www.lovelafayette.org/residents/housing takes you to the Lafayette website that describes housing. https://lafayette.icitywork.com/ takes you to a “major development projects” page. This is fundamental work of the League – engaging your government – be in the room when it happens!