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Apr 06

Council Goals focus on Housing and Communication

Posted on April 6, 2017 at 9:58 AM by Raina Allan

Last month the City Council began its annual goal setting process, hosting a work session attended by more than 35 residents and property owners. During the work session, the Council and public began formulating a number of goals for fiscal year 2017-18. Areas of greatest interest included affordable housing, economic development, parking, City finances and communications; with the Council expressing the greatest interest in continuing to expand the City's affordable housing efforts.

In the last two years, the City has made significant strides forward to address housing affordability in our community. The City's work has focused on three main areas: partnering with local housing service providers to expand housing programs, working with affordable housing developers to implement affordable housing projects, and adopting new housing policies. These efforts have resulted in over $3.9 million invested in affordable housing programs and projects.  Below is a breakdown of the programs and projects:

  • Measure S: Voters approved a 2% increase to Transient Occupancy Tax, dedicated to affordable housing services and programs
  • Emergency & Transitional Housing ($84,000): NSCS assists families in need and offers assistance to find permanent housing
  • Rent Stabilization & Temporary Emergency Shelter Services ($60,000): NSCS provides qualified families facing rent increases and at-risk of displacement with assistance and emergency services during significant weather events
  • Affordable Unit Stewardship ($82,000): Housing Land Trust (HLT) of Sonoma County monitors existing affordable units, supports affordable unit homeowners, and places qualified families in new units
  • Rental Unit Rehabilitation Loan ($53,000): Helps off-set rental unit maintenance costs and offer incentives to limit rent increases
  • Utility Discounts ($70,000): Extended water, sewer, electric, drainage discounts to all affordable complexes and increased discounts on monthly residential electric charges for qualified customers
  • Housing Support Programs ($5,650): Fair Housing Sonoma County assists with tenant/landlord issues and provides education for property owners/managers/tenants and City hosts Property Owner/Manager Outreach Meetings to update on City housing initiatives and receive information on rental market conditions
  • 1201 Grove Street (24 units/$1,777,000): Sold the property for development of a 24 unit affordable rental project which will begin construction shortly
  • 721 Center Street (8 units/$1,815,000): Purchased 8 multifamily rental units for affordable housing purposes, enabling low-income families to remain in their homes
  • 110 Dry Creek (37 units): Approved 37 low and moderate income rental units
  • Sorrento Square (6 units): HLT placed 6 lower-income families in affordable units
  • Chiquita Grove (4 units): HLT is qualifying families for 4 affordable units
    • Combined, 1201 Grove St, 110 Dry Creek, Sorrento Square, Chiquita Grove and 721 Center Street have/will provide 79 affordable units

As the City Council continues its goal setting process, affordable housing is expected to be at the forefront of the discussion. The Council is currently working to re-establish the Community Housing Committee whose initial work assignment is anticipated to include recommending revisions to the City’s housing policies to ensure they align with the City’s housing goals and objectives. 

During the goal setting session Council also identified the need for greater communication and more transparency, expressing interest in developing a City-wide communication and public outreach strategy. These efforts would continue to build on the communication strategies that have been implemented over the last two years as we continue to cultivate broader community engagement opportunities, particularly with our underrepresented populations. In addition to continuing our Community Conversations neighborhood meetings, we have expanded our neighborhood outreach efforts to include a new Coffee with the City community meeting that will be held at the SHED every three months. This is a casual meeting, hosted by me and City department heads, where residents and businesses are invited to come and learn about City projects and ask questions. 

We also continue to increase our efforts on social media, expanding use of Facebook pages for the City, Senior Center, Fire Department, Community Services and SmartLiving Healdsburg, as well as Twitter. The City’s website also continues to deliver information to our community, reaching 162,413 visits in 2016, up 53% from 2015. Several technological improvements have also enabled us to improve access to information including creation of the GoHealdsburg app which enables customers to pay their utility bills or report a concern in our community electronically and launching, a tool residents can use to access the City’s budget.

As we continue our efforts, we welcome your feedback on how we can better communicate what’s happening in the City.

David Mickaelian
City Manager