The State of California is in the midst of an unprecedented housing crisis. Communities like Santa Cruz, which attract people both for its natural beauty as well as its proximity to high-wage employment areas, are being particularly hard hit.
The City of Santa Cruz is looking at new ways we can address the diverse housing needs of our community. As we move into the future smart growth is needed to address the diverse housing needs of our community. By working together, we can develop housing solutions that support the quality of life in our unique town. While we will never be able to house every person who desires to live in Santa Cruz, we can and will find ways to ease the burden of finding affordable and reliable housing.
The Santa Cruz City Council wants to hear your thoughts on the housing crisis. There are several ways to share your ideas and suggestions; please check back frequently for an update on opportunities to join the conversation.
- Engaging organizations and community groups. Former Mayor Chase met people in their homes, bars, libraries, farmers' markets and other venues on 22 separate occasions, engaging with over 350 community members.
- Each meeting focused on the groups' perspectives on the following three questions:
- What are your biggest concerns about the housing crisis in Santa Cruz?
- What are some solutions you are invested or interested in us exploring further?
- What are some things that the City should NOT do in terms of housing?
- This included the distribution of approximately 1,000 toolkits that educated the public about specific topic areas and encouraged discussion on housing-related topics. All materials were made available in both English and Spanish.
- The City received over 1,300 online survey responses which included community input on an array of housing-related issues.
- The former mayor engaged in a series of activities such as affordable housing tours and brown bag lunches.
- The City of Santa Cruz hosted its' annual trolley tour showcasing some of the city's affordable housing. This tour gave participants a unique perspective on housing and you will learn about the different housing programs available.
In response to this prodigious feedback, the City developed the Santa Cruz Voices on Housing: Fall 2017 Community Engagement Report, which included 99 recommendations by the community regarding the housing crisis. This report serves as a summary of the comprehensive listening and engagement process. It provides a snapshot of housing in Santa Cruz and an overview of the community engagement effort undertaken in 2017. Most importantly, this report documents community feedback gathered on 22 issue areas, provides key information and presents a set of actions the City could pursue. The report is categorized into three topic areas, each with a guiding objective.
- Housing Production: The City of Santa Cruz will work to influence and assist the creation of diverse and affordable housing choices for all Santa Cruzans;
- Housing Protection: The City of Santa Cruz strives to ensure all housing is high-quality by way of effective housing protection strategies;
- Community Vitality: The City of Santa Cruz aims to foster a sustainable, diverse and thriving community that is comprised of all ages, races, genders and socioeconomic demographics. The final report presented proposals in their full form, without prioritization or any assessment.
After receiving the report, Council agreed to form the Housing Blueprint Subcommittee (HBS), an ad-hoc Council Subcommittee to evaluate and prioritize the report’s 99 recommendations.
Following over six months of outreach, the City prepared a Santa Cruz Voices on Housing Community Report that contained nearly 100 potential action items to produce new housing, protect existing housing, and promote community vitality. The report was presented to the City Council on December 5, 2017, and the Council decided to form the Housing Blueprint Subcommittee (HBS) to help prioritize specific projects and policies that may yield more immediate results. At a March 27, 2018 update on the HBS's work, the Council directed the HBS to conduct additional public outreach, and return to the Council by June with recommendations.
The Housing Blueprint Committee scored the 99 recommendations based on four criteria:
- Level of community impact
- Speed to implement
- Cost to implement
- Community readiness.
The Subcommittee reviewed and evaluated each of the 99 recommendations within this framework in consultation with the appropriate City staff.
Community recommendations were flagged that did not score well but perhaps should still be prioritized. Initial findings were vetted at a community meeting attended by over 200 community members and through an online survey that garnered nearly 900 responses.
An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is an additional, self-contained housing unit that is secondary to the main residence. ADUs are sometimes referred to as “Granny units” or “Mother-In-Law units” since many ADUs were initially constructed to provide for family members.
When you look around your neighborhood, you may see that some of your neighbors have built an ADU on their property. Perhaps to supplement their mortgage payments, provide for elderly parents or allow their children to stay in Santa Cruz.
RENTAL HOUSING TASKFORCE
Between December 2018 and February 2019, the City Council made three separate motions directing staff to develop an approach for initiating a community task force focused on rental housing issues facing tenants and property owners.
INCLUSIONARY HOUSING/MEASURE O
Measure O is a voter-approved initiative that requires developers of residential projects to provide a certain percentage of the total number of units as affordable to moderate, low or very-low income households. This requirement may be met by various options, one of which is for the developer to build the units and designate them as either for-sale units or as rental units. All Measure O units remain affordable through a long-term or permanent deed restriction recorded against the property.
A Housing Element is one of the required chapters of the General Plan, which is the overarching land use document for the City. In addition to establishing the City’s overall housing policies and programs, the purpose of the Housing Element is to ensure that the City has sufficient appropriately zoned land to accommodate the construction of the City’s ‘fair share’ of housing units proportionate to the projected statewide population growth.
Award Winning Policies
Following on the heels of the Award of Excellence in Public Outreach received from the local Northern California section of the American Planning Association (APA), the Planning & Community Development Department was honored with an Award of Merit in Public Outreach from the State of California Chapter of APA for the Housing Voices Community Outreach Process in July 2019.
The General Plan can be thought of as the Constitution for a city. It is a comprehensive, long range document that defines the City’s philosophy and policies on growth and preservation, highlights what is important to the community, and prescribes where different types of future development can and should go. Having an adopted General Plan is a state requirement, and the City of Santa Cruz adopted our General Plan 2030 in 2012.
The Housing Element is one of the required elements of a General Plan. It sets the City’s housing policies and programs and makes sure that the City has enough land zoned to accommodate our “fair share” of the regional housing. A key piece to understand here is that it is not a direct role of the City to construct housing, rather the City’s role is to make sure that our programs and policies allow for our fair share of housing to be constructed. The Housing Element is required to be updated every 8 years, and the City of Santa Cruz adopted our current 2015-2023 Housing Element in 2016.
Various Housing Programs
There are various housing programs, resources, and types of assistance available for city residents. Are you a homeowner, renter, or in need of housing? See what assistance might be available to you by visiting the Economic Development Department’s Housing Division page. For stories relating to housing in Santa Cruz, and to learn about our projects and programs visit Choose Santa Cruz – Housing
Who needs Housing in Santa Cruz?
The housing crisis touches everyone - artists, health care workers, first responders, teachers, hospitality workers, students, homeless, and many more.
How is the Santa Cruz housing crisis different than any other coastal California city?There are a number of factors that have led to this crisis, and in many ways. The statewide housing crisis also seems to be the most acute in coastal California cities, like Santa Cruz. No matter how you compare us to other cities, however, people are struggling to find reliable housing that they can afford in Santa Cruz.