Sonoma County wants to hear from residents on how best to meet the area’s upcoming housing goals and mitigate the challenges many residents face in finding affordable housing.
The feedback will help local officials create guidelines on where and how new housing can be built in unincorporated areas, which make up about a third of the county’s population of over 480,000.
Permit Sonoma, the district planning department, will be holding virtual workshops on their housing plans Saturday at 11 a.m. and Tuesday at 6 p.m
To meet its state-mandated housing goals, the county is currently expected to approve a total of 3,881 units between 2023 and 2031 — a dramatic increase from just 515 homes during the current eight-year cycle.
Before each new cycle, state law requires local governments to update their plans for housing — called “housing elements” — to ensure cities and counties can realistically meet their housing goals by approving enough housing for people of all income levels.
Calum Weeks, policy director of local growth-oriented advocacy group Generation Housing, said the new plans are also key to building more homes near transportation hubs and reducing climate-damaging vehicle emissions.
“This is a great opportunity for everyone concerned with the long-term viability of our economy, our climate mitigation efforts, and providing quality housing that our local families can afford,” Weeks wrote in an email.
For the current real estate cycle, according to state data, Sonoma County is one of the few local jurisdictions on track to meet their goals at all income levels. But county officials have signaled they may not be ready to meet their dramatically increased targets beginning next year.
In October, the county unsuccessfully appealed those goals before a regional committee, arguing that it lacks the necessary sanitation and water infrastructure and that voter-imposed limits on city growth limit the land available for development.
However, state law allows other local jurisdictions to take a portion of the county’s housing allotment. And Santa Rosa officials have said they hope to do just that as the city works toward its goal of building 7,000 units in its downtown core by 2040.
Santa Rosa is also in the process of seeking input into its home element through a campaign called Santa Rosa Forward.
You can reach Staff Writer Ethan Varian at [email protected] or 707-521-5412. On Twitter @ethanvarian