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The Vista City Council has prepared its Housing Element in compliance with state guidelines for affordable units. Photo by Dan Brendel
Cities Community Vista Vista Featured

Vista’s Housing Element ready for state approval

VISTA — The city is ahead of where it must be to comply with the current Regional Housing Needs Assessment as directed by the state and San Diego County.

During its Jan. 12 meeting, the Vista City Council took a report from Patsy Chow, deputy director of community development, on the draft Housing Element Update, which centered on the RHNA numbers.

According to Chow, despite the city being allocated nearly double the units for the 2021-29 cycle compared to 2013-2021, Vista has already met its goals. Additionally, she said the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has not voiced any objections to Vista’s numbers.

“The Housing Element provides an assessment of current and future housing needs, identifies constraints and opportunities and strategy to provide housing,” Chow added. “We have enough to meet the RHNA numbers and that’s the big news.”

She also said General Plan amendments and rezoning are not necessary for the city to meet its RHNA goals.

The Housing Element will now be submitted to the HCD for review in January and February for preliminary approval followed by public hearings with the Planning Commission and City Council in April with an April 15 deadline for the council to adopt the Housing Element, Chow said.

Vista has met its goals with surpluses of 122 units for very low housing, 187 for low and 206 for moderate. However, the city has a deficit of 187 for above moderate, but the surplus can be applied to the above moderate category, Chow said.

The total 2013-2021 RHNA numbers were 1,374 units and increased to 2,561 for this cycle, Chow said. Also, the city can use pending projects, accessory dwelling units, vacant and underutilized parcels in its calculations, she explained.

“When the county looks at our city, they see we have a pretty high percentage of low-income people utilizing our housing,” said Councilman Joe Green. “If we need to build in any other area, you’re going to coach us as a council.”

One issue the council discussed but did not act on was the potential for an inclusionary housing requirement within the Housing Element.

Freshman Councilwoman Katie Melendez said her interests include units built in a sustainable way and to do it is to ensure affordable housing units with an inclusionary housing requirement.

Councilwoman Corinna Contreras agreed and said the council should consider adding the inclusionary provision in the Housing Element. Both women said it would help ensure not one part of the city has more affordable units than others.

“It’s a built-in affordable component,” Melendez said. “Allocate space for affordable units and ensure anytime these projects are built they are including affordable housing. An integrated approach to housing.”

Mayor Julie Ritter and councilmen John Franklin and Joe Green said the inclusionary component is duplicative and not really needed as developers use the state’s density bonus to include affordable units in their projects, thus already creating a spread of affordable units across the city.

“Inclusionary housing is great but speaking with Patsy Chow and looking at housing and income, we are providing enough affordable housing,” Green said. “It’s a little much knowing we’re not failing.”

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