Windsor, Healdsburg face sharp rise in targets for new affordable housing
Windsor and Healdsburg are among a dozen Bay Area cities that each would be obligated to build hundreds more affordable homes under an 8-year plan to meet state mandates, a sharp increase that stemmed from a change in the regional housing allocation to achieve greater racial and socioeconomic equity
The shift requires Windsor and Healdsburg together to approve and advance by 2031 more than 850 apartments, condominiums and single-family homes for lower-income residents, an increase of 146% over the housing targets they had been expecting under a previous formula.
For Windsor, the increase was 341 units, for a total of 993. For Healdsburg it was 176 more units, resulting in a new total of 476.
“This is a very steep, exponential increase of the number of units we would have to build in short order,” said Healdsburg Councilwoman Ariel Kelley. “It’s definitely worrisome in the sense that these units are very expensive to get built, and it’s very challenging to identify funding to build them.”
The revised targets remain preliminary, with final votes among Bay Area regional leaders and state officials still a ways off. The new requirements are not set to take effect until 2023.
Still, the revisions have jolted officials in the 18 cities where housing targets were altogether increased by more than 3,000 units — a list that also includes Gilroy, St. Helena and unincorporated parts of Napa County. In 60 other jurisdictions, including all others in Sonoma County, they were lowered, and in 31 places they stayed the same.
The blueprint at issue is the Bay Area’s housing development plan, a state-mandated document that allocates minimum targets for new affordable housing in the nine counties and each of their cities. In the current eight-year housing cycle, ending in 2023, California required about 188,000 new affordable homes be built across the Bay Area. The next cycle more than doubles the total to roughly 441,000 lower-income units.
The plan places an emphasis on building more overall units and higher density in areas that already include large employment centers and access to transportation in an effort to meet state greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. As a result, the Bay Area’s largest cities, including San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland, would continue to shoulder the largest number of new homes. Together, they would account for about 170,000 more affordable housing units that must be approved and permitted by the end of 2031, equating to 40% of all of the units assigned by the state to the Bay Area. Still, each city’s targets dropped under the revisions made last month.
The fallout for Healdburg and Windsor has raised hackles among their representatives and drawn scrutiny from local officials involved in regional housing discussions.
Rohnert Park Councilwoman Susan Hollingsworth Adams, who sits on a planning committee for the Association of Bay Area Governments, which presides over the allocation process for the region. She questioned the added equity component that increased targets for Healdsburg and Windsor while also assailing the top-down process — a long-standing critique that local officials have leveled at Sacramento over housing targets.
“This is an overreach by the state of California,” she said. “We’re going to lose the flavor of our communities if we’re all just assigned numbers by the state, and this is how many houses you have to build next year. The sun, moon and the stars have to align for that to happen, and they just don’t for Windsor and Healdsburg.”
The new equity component was approved last month by the executive committee for ABAG.
As a result, Sonoma County’s overall target of new affordable housing dropped by about 1% over the current cycle. The combined countywide target would be more than 14,500 affordable homes, including all nine cities and the unincorporated area. For comparison, more than 208,000 homes, including apartments, exist in the county, with a population of more than 494,000 people.
Windsor, the county’s fourth-largest city with just over 27,000 residents, would be on the hook for the fifth-highest total of affordable homes within the county, behind Santa Rosa, the unincorporated county, Petaluma and Rohnert Park.
“I’m concerned about the total number, and — because Windsor is relatively built out — where we’re going to be able to find places to locate units in good locations, close to jobs and transit and all that, and how we’re going to be able to accommodate that within town limits,” said Jessica Jones, Windsor’s community development director.
Windsor’s allocation of nearly 1,000 units would be spread across very low- and low-income homes, plus moderate- and above-moderate levels of the area’s median income. Its target in the current cycle is 440 affordable units.