As California continues to face a housing crisis, the City of Sacramento has taken significant steps to address its housing needs that may provide valuable strategies for other cities to consider. On August 10, 2021, the Sacramento City Council unanimously approved a Comprehensive Siting Plan to Address Homelessness. One week later, on August 17, the City Council adopted the 2021–2029 Housing Element with several innovative approaches to meet housing needs.
A Bold New Housing Element
The Housing Element includes eight goals that create the framework for how the City of Sacramento will address housing needs during the planning period (2021-2029).The bold strategy contained in the Housing Element will help address the housing crisis in Sacramento through a number of goals, policies, and programs that focus on expanding the housing stock and offering a wider range of housing choices for everyone in the city. Ascent assisted the City in developing an implementation program that lays out detailed actions prioritized by short-term, mid-term, and long-term programs over the 8-year timeframe. Priority actions include: reviewing the City’s Mixed Income Housing Ordinance, developing a Housing Element Toolkit to provide information on available sites and incentives, and establishing new sources of local funding for affordable housing. The housing strategy was developed with extensive community input and reflects the City’s ambition to create equitable and inclusive neighborhoods and to provide opportunities for a variety of housing at all levels of affordability to meet the current and future needs of all residents.
A Focus on Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Displacement
Sacramento’s most vulnerable communities, including low- and middle-income households and communities of color, continue to be disproportionately affected by the housing crisis. The themes of equity, inclusion, and anti-displacement are woven throughout the Housing Element. The City prepared a fair housing assessment to analyze historic practices and current trends that have led to segregation and unequal housing opportunity. New policies and programs were added to demonstrate the City’s commitment to ensuring opportunities for affordable housing are dispersed more equitably throughout the city, transforming racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity, and as neighborhood investments increase, protecting residents from displacement.
A New Approach to the Sites Inventory
Like most communities in California during this sixth housing element cycle, the City of Sacramento was assigned a much higher regional housing needs allocation (RHNA). Compared to a fifth cycle RHNA of about 24,000 housing units, the City was assigned a RHNA of nearly 46,000 housing units. This higher housing target required a much more thoughtful approach to identify appropriate sites. The City identified significant new capacity on non-vacant sites along commercial corridors targeted for infill and reinvestment. A new tiered approach classified non-vacant sites based on their development readiness. Ultimately, the City was able to demonstrate that through past efforts to increase densities and expand housing opportunities in commercial areas throughout the city, there is sufficient capacity to accommodate over 51,000 housing units in Sacramento.
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Housing and Shelter for the
Unhoused in Sacramento
On August 10, the City Council unanimously approved a Comprehensive Siting Plan to Address Homelessness. Conceived by Mayor Darrell Steinberg, this first-of-its-kind plan calls for bold comprehensive action scaled to meet the magnitude of the urgent crisis of unhoused persons in Sacramento.
Initiated by the City Council on January 5, 2021, each Councilmember led a robust and extensive 6-month community engagement process amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. After Councilmembers identified and publicly presented dozens of sites, Ascent managed and supported City staff in the vetting process and the consolidation of goals and strategies into an implementable plan.
To innovatively define specific locations for new facility development for the unhoused, the approved plan identifies 20 properties, 15 of them publicly owned, as priority sites for transitional housing, congregate shelters, tiny home communities, safe parking, and safe ground. Each of the temporary housing options will offer services designed to help people find permanent housing and exit homelessness. In addition to specific sites, the plan identifies programmatic solutions that include motel conversions, increased housing voucher usage, scattered site housing, and a larger campus whose location will be determined later in 2021.
The plan is paired with a financing framework expected to total about $100 million over 2 years, most of it from new state and federal resources, including the 2021 state budget and the federal American Rescue Plan Act. When fully implemented, the plan will facilitate the provision of shelter and housing to over 9,200 persons annually.
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