The issue of affordable housing in Orange County is back on the agenda for the Huntington Beach City Council. Residents packed a Council meeting in late February to discuss a state mandate that would require the city to build more than 500 high-density, low-income housing units in the city. The outcome was a unanimous 7-0 vote against the plan, marking the second time in as many months that the Huntington Beach City Council has voted down more mandatory low-income housing developments.
Huntington Beach has until September to find a way to meet the state’s low-income housing mandate or risk losing funding from the California Department of Housing and Community Development. But less money from the state is not the only downside of failing to meet the state’s low-income housing mandate. Asked about the repercussions of failing to meet the mandate, Jennifer Villasenor of the DHCD said that Sacramento could place a moratorium on building permits in Huntington Beach.
Except residents in attendance did not seem bothered by the prospect of no new buildings. Villasenor’s warning brought a round of applause from the crowd in attendance at the meeting. Huntington Beach Mayor Jim Katapodis says he thinks that the public is not opposed to low-income housing, per se, but about the large housing developments that have already been constructed or are under construction in the city. A moratorium on building permits would satisfy residents upset about increased development as well as those worried about crime, drugs and increased traffic. Katapodis says he would like to avoid such an outcome, if possible, but residents seem more than happy to put construction in Huntington Beach on hold.
Huntington Beach has been searching for a way to fix its low-income housing shortage since late June last year, when the Department of Housing and Community Development sent the council a letter informing the city that it was out of compliance with state law.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge told the city in November to restore a high-density housing plan scrapped by the council in May. The ruling has been stayed while the city appeals the decision. Meanwhile, Council member Billy O’Connell wants to direct the City Attorney, Michael Gates, to challenge the Southern California Association of Government in court. The Association is responsible for deciding how many low-income housing units each city is required to approve to meet the state’s mandate.
The plan stopped in May would have allowed the construction of up to 4,500 housing units in the Edinger area of Huntington Beach. Instead, the council capped the number of units at 2,100 after receiving complaints from residents.
An alternative plan put forward by the city in February would have allowed the constructed of 519 units across eight different sites. That plan was also scrapped because of opposition from residents. Currently, the state mandate requires that Huntington Beach approve 533 units before September.
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