Paso Robles might be ahead of the San Luis Obispo County curve in terms of attempting to mitigate the affordable housing shortage in the city.
At its Aug. 6 City Council meeting, city staffers laid out ongoing efforts to improve its process of creating affordable housing within city limits as a direct response to the June 20 SLO County grand jury report, "Affordable housing, an urgent problem for our community."
The report identified a shortage of housing to meet the needs of individuals making extremely low and low-income wages, countywide. While Paso Robles has an existing affordable housing project, the report stated that the city could still improve its housing policies.
"I would remind us that our Community Development Director Warren Frace, Councilmember [John] Hamon, and myself the last two weeks were at the ribbon cutting for phase three of Oak Park redevelopment, which just opened for occupancy 90 new low-income units including those for homeless veterans. We are obviously moving ahead," City Councilmember Fred Strong said at the meeting.
Oak Park is a four-phase project that will total more than 300 affordable housing units when finished and replace the 148 units of deteriorated public housing that existed on the site. The third phase was completed in July, and the final construction and redevelopment phase recently began.
In Paso Robles, the grand jury report identified that the length and cost of the building permitting process is a major barrier to housing construction, especially low-income housing.
According to a city staff report, over the years, Paso established a Housing Constraints and Opportunities Committee made up of public members to advise the council on improving housing production. The city also created a Building Liaison Group that includes local architects, engineers, and builders to work with the Community Development Department to improve the plan check and inspection processes. The plan check is a 30-day first review and a 14-day recheck process—approval of housing permits occur within a 12-month time period.
In an effort to make the developing process a little easier, the city reduced developer impact fees for studio apartments, transportation impact fees for all types of development citywide, and water meter and sewer connection fees for all development.
As another ongoing effort, the city is planning to update its Housing Element, which was last updated in 2014. At that time, the city will look into the possibility of inclusionary housing units and non-traditional housing options (modular homes, pre-fabricated homes, and mobile home parks).