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affordable housing
The City of Vista is ahead of its required goals for very low, low and moderate incoming housing. File photo
Cities Community Vista Vista Featured

Vista ahead of state-mandated affordable housing goals

VISTA — Every city in the state is facing the challenge of providing more housing and faster than ever.

In Vista, the City Council received an update during its Nov. 10 meeting regarding its Housing Element and the city’s drive toward meeting the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) set by the San Diego Association of Governments earlier this year.

According to Patsy Chow, deputy director of community development, the city is required to build 2,561 total units for the sixth cycle, which runs from 2021-29. Chow said the city is ahead of its required goals for very-low, low and moderate-income housing and the total of those surpluses can be used to make up the deficiencies in the above-moderate category.

“When it comes to affordable and moderate housing in Vista, we are doing our part,” Councilman Joe Green said. “We have 836 very low and low units ready to go. It looks like we are zoned for 1,997 very low, low and moderate units and the RHNA requirement was 1,205.”

In total, the city has pending or approved projects for 3,119 units, including 785 very low, 615 low and 597 moderate residences. Those also include accessory dwelling units, vacant parcels and underutilized parcels, according to Chow.

The city’s above moderate goals were set at 1,356, while the sixth cycle total nearly doubled from the fifth cycle. According to the staff report, the city saw big jumps of 155% and 50% for new moderate and very low units, respectively.

As for San Diego County, the total units established by the state totals 171,685, which is spread across the 18 cities and unincorporated county through SANDAG’s methodology.

The council did not see a need for any General Plan amendments or updates to its Housing Element as a result of the new units coming online in the future.

“The above moderate category shows a dramatic increase. That is because when we look at our percentages … we have to compare ourselves to the county average,” Chow said. “We can use pending projects … to go to the new RHNA because they will come on during the new cycle. We separate them into the various income categories.”

Also, Chow said the city conducted a housing survey among residents. The results revealed residents prioritize focus on lots with older buildings with added potential, vacant land zoned for housing and units near commercial locations.

The council also considered a smoke-free policy for multi-family units but declined to include it in any city policy.

Councilwoman Corinna Contreras was the lone councilmember in favor, claiming it is a matter of protecting the health of others. However, the other councilmembers were wary of including such a provision mandating what an individual homeowner can or cannot do on their own property.

City staff, meanwhile, will begin its Draft Housing Element review in December or January 2021, with a review by the California Housing and Community Development department in January or February and adoption by the council on April 15.