Santa Barbara 2023-31 Housing Element Update


The City of Santa Barbara is continuing the process to revise its 2023-31 Housing Element, following comments in the California Department of Housing and Community Development’s (HCD) November 16, 2022 response letter. The letter provides feedback and various recommendations for the element’s improvement. HCD recommended a full analysis of identified sites, including an assessment of whether they would improve or exacerbate conditions related to segregation and access to opportunity, as well as if sites are isolated by income group – both of which could require the element to include more programs to address these issues. HCD also called for further analysis of any barriers to development, and other relevant factors that could impact the realistic capacity for development in the city within the 2023-31 planning period. 

 Additionally, HCD called for the element to analyze all relevant land use controls’ impacts on various housing types. The element must also address parking requirements, lot coverage, and density limits. Additionally, the element must evaluate the impact of design review guidelines, local ordinances, and improvement requirements as potential constraints on housing supply and affordability. It must also describe and analyze any local amendments to the building code and establish a streamlining procedure. Finally, the element must identify and analyze potential constraints on housing for persons with disabilities and describe the findings and approval procedure for the City’s reasonable accommodation procedure. 

These recommendations, and more, from HCD have led to the extensive and ongoing process on the City’s part to take these recommendations seriously and incorporate them into the draft element. While HCD’s comments do not necessarily reflect a belief that the city’s inventory of sites is not realistic, they do place the burden on the City to fully study understand the realistic capacity each site has to provide the needed units – no small task given the complexity of the housing market in Santa Barbara. 

Until the Chamber, and the community, see the City’s findings and revised housing element it is difficult to assess effectiveness of the Housing Element. If the City’s continued efforts over the past nearly five months are anything to go off, we can hope that Santa Barbara’s 2023-31 Housing Element will reflect a plan that will give our community a much deeper understanding of Santa Barbara’s capacity for housing as well as include programs and streamlined processes to address local barriers. 

Click here for the most up-to-date news on Santa Barbara’s Housing Element process.