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Gilroy
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December 6, 2022

Guest View: For housing, ‘status quo’ has got to go

Gilroy has made strides to plan and promote housing opportunities for our workforce that are typically more affordable. This is needed more now than ever before. 

The State recently released new income guidelines: a Santa Clara County household of one whose income is $92,250 is considered low income and eligible for “affordable” housing. The same is true for a household of four who earns $131,750. This is many of us. We’ve reached a boiling point where we need to take advantage of the many tools before us.

You can build an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on any residential property in the city; you can build duplexes on single family home lots; city staff’s work plan includes developing an inclusionary housing ordinance which requires a percentage of affordable homes in each development; and the Draft Gilroy Housing Element (Gilroy’s Eight-Year Housing Plan) is well underway. This plan will guide residential development and policy decisions during the next Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) Housing Element cycle for 2023-2031. The draft will be released soon for public comment. 

This next RHNA cycle’s housing assignment is going to take some creativity on housing production, and that includes small projects to big ones. We can’t grow or consider ourselves equitable and diversified in housing type when 75% of our land is zoned for single family homes. This may have worked in the past, but now that these homes are out of reach for most families, we need to course correct. We can continue to create a diversified housing stock to meet the needs of our residents. It has already been mentioned in meetings that we need to look at missing middle housing (this translates to rental opportunities, duplexes, triplexes, and four-plexes, a technical way for saying smaller homes that are more naturally affordable).

The State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) reinforced the fact that they no longer consider the Housing Element Update to be a paper exercise, but instead a contract between jurisdictions and the state on housing commitments for eight-and-a-half years. To this end, HCD’s new Housing Accountability Unit will be monitoring implementation and will hold jurisdictions to the commitments laid out in the Housing Element’s plan.

One legislative item that my office recently had added to a future agenda is Modular Transitional Housing for what’s known as the “Challenge Grant from Santa Clara County.” This grant funding is available for modular units to be used for transitional housing on city-owned properties. There will be another round of Project Home Key funding that can be used in conjunction with this grant. With the traditional shelter model phasing out for future developments, the modular transitional housing concept has full time wrap-around services for the residents and provides needed privacy for families experiencing homelessness.

The City of Gilroy declared the month of May by city resolution as Affordable Housing Month. In the City of Gilroy, I call upon all members of our community to support housing solutions that are affordable for our workforce, our seniors, youth and special needs populations, and to recognize the successful efforts of the City of Gilroy and its dedicated partners who seek to improve access to housing opportunities in Gilroy and our neighboring communities.

Affordable Housing Month encourages all citizens, legislators and advocates to collaborate in finding viable, creative solutions to the current housing crisis by reviewing all housing policies and processes in order to meaningfully increase housing opportunities throughout the City of Gilroy.

The culture of “no” and the “status quo” has got to go. A simple (piece of paper) endorsement of the Community Plan to End Homeless by City Resolution last year has already made an impact for the residents of Gilroy in ending homelessness. We had left free crucial dollars behind because we didn’t have a seat at the table regionally. I’m proud to say that today we do. We will be able to use the $1.3 million Permanent Local Housing Allocation (PLHA) to fund program services and our hard-working Community Based Organizations. This will allow our Housing Trust Fund (HTF) to stop being depleted and build back up and to do more good work. 

Some recent data from a community workshop done by our Housing Element consultant:

• 38% of our population of 59,520 is 24 years old or less

• 16,608 housing units are 60.5% owner-occupied, 39.5% renters

• $101,600 median household income for Gilroy

• Max affordable purchase price $303,000 and median home price $1,000,000

A poll from the meeting found that the top three focus programs are: 1. Inclusionary Units; 2. Build to a Higher Density; and 3. Provide Access to Low Cost Pre-Designed ADUs. The top three housing issues are: 1. Difficult to Pay Rent, Mortgage, Down Payment; 2. Insufficient Housing Supply; and 3. Homelessness.

Zach Hilton is a Gilroy City Councilmember.

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