Close to Home: Get involved to make housing affordable
If you’re interested in affordable housing in Sonoma County, there’s one thing you can do right here, right now to make a huge difference. And it won’t cost you a dime.
Bring your voice and share your perspective, values, concerns and needs to shape your city’s most important local housing policy — the housing element, a document that California cities are required to update to meet the needs of everyone in their community.
Our housing challenges affect rates of homelessness, loved ones displaced by high housing costs, residents stuck in overcrowded homes and those of us who have unaffordable homes that cost a third or more of our paychecks.
But despair isn’t a solution. The time is now to roll up our sleeves and come together to make a housing plan that will accommodate everyone, whether it’s young professionals, seniors, families, your hairdresser, your nurse, your kids’ teachers. Everyone needs housing, and participating in housing element updates is a tangible way to ensure that we meet our community needs. The plan will include how many homes your city will need based on population forecasts, what kinds of homes and income-levels the homes would accommodate, and where those homes would be built, zoning changes and strategies and policies to support housing goals.
There’s not much time left. The housing element, which is part of a city’s general plan, is updated every eight years, and it’s only a month or so before city council members and planning commissioners weigh in on proposed housing policies. By midsummer, city officials will coordinate with consultants to finalize draft housing elements for review by the public.
Contact your city hall, ask about community engagement opportunities, and show up to give input on your housing needs. You can also sign up for local housing element updates and stay informed at generationhousing.org/housing-element-tracker.
Drafts will be available for review for 30 days, then sent to the state by the end of the year for compliance review before they’re finally adopted in January. Community input is required by the state in the housing element process. In other words, your voice matters. Your voice needs to be heard. It’s up to all of us, with high incomes or low incomes, young or old, homeowners or renters. We have the power to provide fair and abundant housing that is affordable for all of our friends, families and neighbors, present and future.
We know that housing policy has long-term effects. Past policies imbued with structural racism, such as redlining that began in the 1930s, segregated Black Americans into neighborhoods with lower health and educational outcomes that last to this day.
Good housing policy can have reverse results. It can make meaningful progress toward a healthier, more equitable and prosperous future. Affordable housing fuels our local economy, protects our local landscapes and moves closer to achieving a sustainable, low-carbon future.
It’s a common conversation around our area — housing costs and how it affects people, their finances, their mental and physical health, their businesses unable to employ workers. Let’s move those conversations out into the public sphere, where we collectively can impact policy and make a brighter future for us all.
As we earnestly confront our regional and statewide housing crucible, there is reason to hope. We have a unique culture in Sonoma County, one of innovation and resilience. As a community, we’ve suffered a relentless series of disasters in recent years, yet we continue to choose it as our home. Together, we can make an inclusive housing plan that doesn’t leave anybody out. It’s up to us.
Jen Klose is executive director and Calum Weeks is policy director for Generation Housing.
You can send letters to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.