On Jan. 14, Galt Planning Commission held a public presentation detailing the implementation of new housing requirements set by the State of California. The update to the existing 2013-21 Housing Element (which is one of 10 elements in the city’s General Plan) addresses both current and future housing needs, the opportunities and constraints with respect to housing production, and the policies or programs necessary for the city to carry out those needs.

Updates to the Housing Element are required every eight years. Each planning period must address new state laws enacted since the last planning period.

Craig Hoffman, community development director for the city, summarizes this periodic development as a means to “identify and analyze existing and projected housing needs in an effort to preserve, improve and develop housing for all economic segments of the community.”

According to the planning commission presentation, these requirements will affect the 2021-29 Housing Element in the following areas: accessory dwelling units (ADUS), affirmatively furthering fair housing, by-right transitional and permanent supportive housing, emergency and transitional housing, site inventory selection, and streamlining affordable housing.

Along with these areas, the state also requires the city to identify enough residentially zoned parcels to accommodate 1,926 new housing units – an increase of 1,247 dwelling units since the last planning period, set at 679 units.

These amounts come from the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), a calculation determined by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), with the relevant regional Council of Governments (COG). For Galt, the Sacramento Area COG (SACOG) makes that determination and subsequently divides that number by income needs – extremely low-income, very low-income, low-income, moderate-income, and above moderate-income. Please see RHNA chart for specific Galt breakdown.

Currently, planning for the Housing Element update is ongoing.

“We anticipate that this document will be adopted by the city in the August–September timeframe,” Hoffman said. “We are currently in the data collection phase that involves completing an assessment of both current and future housing needs. We are reviewing opportunities and constraints on housing production and looking at trends in population, income, housing and employment that may affect the community.”

These trends weigh heavily on the minds of those tasked with implementing the Housing Element. After all, the population makeup of the city plays a determining factor in how the city planners move forward.

“The goal is to provide housing that meets the needs of the community,” Hoffman said. “This includes housing for first-time home buyers. This includes move-up housing. This includes empty nesters that may be looking for smaller homes, senior housing for older homeowners, housing for young professionals that are on the go and do not need or want to maintain yards, housing for renters, and apartments for lower income individuals. We try to identify housing for everyone.”

Although this statewide measure is an unfunded mandate to the city’s Housing Element, Hoffman explains that the state offers support to local governments through other means.

“The state has been funding a lot of grants for housing, infill development and infrastructure improvements for circulation,” Hoffman said. “The monies have really focused on efficiency of land use and preventing sprawl into the farmlands.”

Hoffman also notes that the HCD awarded Galt with $150,000 this year as part of the Local Early Action Planning Grants Program (LEAP Program).

“This funding will pay for consultant services, as well as staff time for the Housing Element preparation and public review process,” Hoffman said.

And, though unfunded, these requirements are enforceable to a great extent as “failure to update the Housing Element puts the city at risk for litigation and the city may become ineligible for many future statewide grant opportunities.”

Since at least the 1970s, California remains in the throes of an ever-increasing statewide housing shortage. In 2018, the McKinsey Global Institute ranked the state as 49th in housing units per resident. To close the gap, California needs to double the current rate of housing production to meet population growth and prevent home prices from increasing further. The next eight years are critical in that regard since the state will ultimately need to quadruple the rate of production to keep up with demand in that time.

Of course, the pandemic adds yet another dimension in planning for future housing developments.

“With everything that took place in 2020, we are seeing jobs decentralize and this is going to have a big impact on housing,” Hoffman concluded. “People are going to live in Galt and work remotely all over the state. This is going to be a big shift in how we typically viewed housing needs.”

This decentralization could also reconfigure housing supply and demand should the situation continue indefinitely – a metric that is, unfortunately, also unpredictable.

The Community Development Department will hold a public hearing at the Planning Commission on Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. to review constraints to housing development. They will also hold monthly meetings with the Planning Commission and a study session with City Council in late April.

You can find more information at the city’s website at http://www.ci.galt.ca.us/ or contact the Planning Division at planningdivision@cityofgalt.org or (209) 366-7230.