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Sep 11

Housing in Healdsburg

Posted on September 11, 2015 at 10:16 AM by David Mickaelian

The City of Healdsburg, like many communities throughout our State, is facing a number of housing related challenges.  These challenges have been exacerbated in Healdsburg due to the recent recession, elimination of Redevelopment Funds by the State, and many have argued the limitations of the Growth Management Ordinance, which inadvertently has curtailed construction of new market rate, multi-family units for sale or rental units.  This has all become much more personal and painful for our community over the past two months with the news of families being evicted from their apartments as well as reported rent increases.

While it seems like a perfect storm of housing issues, the City has been working for some time to address these issues with short, mid, and long-term approaches in mind.

Short Term: City staff met with a number of property owners and property management firms (controlling over 650 rental units in Healdsburg) to discuss appropriate methods and approaches to rental management.  All were asked to support a Rental Advisory that your City Council approved on July 17th.  The “Advisory” provides that:

  • Property owners have an obligation to provide a measure of reliability to tenants regarding rent increases both in terms of rate of increase and frequency. Rent increases for current tenants should be reasonable and fair. A guideline for a reasonable and fair increase amount should not exceed 10% annually.
  • When significant work on a rental unit is needed that requires the tenant to be removed, the tenant is to be given the first right of return to his or her unit once repairs are completed.
  • Owners / property managers imposing reasonable rent increases should be willing to listen openly to tenants’ concerns and consider special arrangements for hardship cases when appropriate.

Safe and healthy living conditions are a shared responsibility. Property owners are expected to respect the rights of their tenants and provide a timely response to maintenance/repair requests and in accordance with applicable law.

The full text of the Rental Advisory is listed at www.ci.healdsburg.ca.ua.  We were pleased that for those in attendance, most of these requests were consistent with their current practices. In addition, Council directed City staff to work with North Sonoma Community Services, along with their partners Committee on the Shelterless (COTS), and Catholic Charities, to help those tenants who have been or are currently being displaced.  To support this effort, the City has committed funding for aid services and support staff to assist families.

Mid-Term: Eighteen months ago, the City began working on a strategy and long-term approach to resolving Healdsburg’s housing challenges.  As part of this effort, the City hosted a number of public workshops and created enhanced outreach efforts (including this website www.ci.healdsburg.ca.us/360/Housing), to better inform our residents and gain feedback on emerging policies and actions that the City can take.  One of the key themes, which emerged from the series, was an overwhelming desire from the community to increase the diversity of housing, as well as its affordability.

Like all complex issues, affordable and diverse housing in Healdsburg will not be solved easily.  The City has embarked on a process that will require modifications to the Growth Management Ordinance, new tools for creating affordable housing, removing barriers to cost effective construction and creating new paths to encourage construction of different housing types that meet the needs of changing life stages and lifestyles.  All of these issues will be addressed in a forthcoming Housing Action Plan that is a top priority for Council.  To assist with some aspects of this effort the City Council established a nine member Community Housing Committee, and asked that their first task be to draw up language for updating the GMO, in order to make it current with today’s market realities, and remove what has been identified as a considerable barrier to more workforce housing.  This language will go to the voters to in an upcoming 2016 election.  

Long-Term: Additional housing will need to be built to support our community’s workforce.  We have an obligation to support those who work in our community, provide cost effective opportunities to live in our community, and are exploring tools and techniques that have worked in other communities like ours.  To create a foundation for these actions the City has adopted a number of plans that provide our leaders guidance as we go down this path.  These documents include the City’s General Plan, the Housing Element, the City Council’s 5 year Strategic Plan, and Council’s annual goals.  The forthcoming Housing Action Plan will be a keystone in this effort as well.  These plans will help shape what housing looks like in the future, and clarify what we can be doing.

We encourage you to go to http://www.ci.healdsburg.ca.us/610/Committee-Resource to review these documents and learn more about the process, meetings and outcomes of these efforts.

David Mickaelian
City Manager