In ongoing discussions in the city council, Santa Monica is deciding how to respond to the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)’s affordable housing requirement for the 2021-2029 cycle. Some local leaders argue that SCAG’s mandate of 9,000 new affordable housing units is unrealistic and doesn’t take into account local needs or funding availability, writes Brennon Dixson in the Santa Monica Daily Press.
The Housing Element, a mandatory element of Santa Monica’s General Plan, is “basically a housing needs assessment that features updated demographic data, data on housing stock, identifying barriers to the production of housing — both for market-rate and affordable housing,” according to Santa Monica Planning Director Jing Yeo. Some members of the city council are balking at the new number, which doubles the requirement from the last cycle. “I understand that as much as we all espouse our love for affordable housing, we have to acknowledge there are people in our community who feel that the RHNA numbers are real lemons,” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown, adding that funding the new affordable housing units, estimated at $3.5 to $5 billion, is a significant challenge.
Councilwoman Gleam Davis defended the state’s affordable housing plan, calling it a “moral obligation” to the people who live and work in Santa Monica. “By providing more housing, we will actually be able to make people’s lives better,” she said.
Other Southern California cities, including Pasadena and Beverly Hills, have challenged SCAG’s decisions for the upcoming cycle, setting the stage for a delicate balancing act between local control and California’s dire need for more housing.