Bakersfield

Bakersfield faces few options, tough choices in developing affordable housing

With the state pushing cities to increase housing stock, primarily for low-income residents, the City of Bakersfield took a look at its developing affordable housing strategy Wednesday during a city council workshop. 

In 2017, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 2 into law, which funded the Permanent Local Housing Allocation – a mechanism designed to support cities in boosting housing production. 

Bakersfield received an allocation of $625,000 to study and identify ways to accelerate housing production and increase affordability. 

Wednesday, the consultants hired to do that work, ECONorthwest, presented the city’s in-development affordable housing plan. 

The consultants will return to the council at a later date to recommend policies and actions that should be taken to increase Bakersfield’s affordable housing production. 

“What is it going to take if we want to create affordable housing, especially in California, within the changes that we can make? Because we can’t change the state with all the regulations that have driven the costs where they are today,” Councilman Bruce Freeman said. “It’s hard for us.” 

Currently at the city’s disposal is the Bakersfield Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which is the primary local funding mechanism for collecting and distributing local money to leverage additional private investment. 

Other options at the ready for the city include a fee mitigation program, which could be used to incentivize the variety of houses being built and provide different payment options to boost production, and an accessory dwelling unit program. 

The consulting group presented four strategies that the city could use in its quest to increase affordable housing: 

  1. Use the city’s toolkit – such as the affordable housing trust fund, development fee program and accessory dwelling unit program – to increase production. 
  2. Build implementation capacity through strong partnerships, advocacy and program monitoring. Under this strategy, the city would partner with community based organizations and other groups and advocate for housing related legislation at the state and federal levels. 
  3. Increase the supply and access to affordable housing by making housing easier to build, which would include improving the permitting process, amending the zoning code and seeking state and federal funding for infrastructure projects. 
  4. Support programs and funding to incentivize and assist in affordable housing production, which includes identifying revenue stream options available, using the local affordable housing trust fund to leverage private investment and exploring funding options through non-traditional sources such as foundations, individuals, major employers, health agencies or educational institutions. 

Before the plan is finalized, the city will hold a community workshop on affordable housing, finalize its accessory dwelling unit plans and deploy its tools that are already in place and available. 

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.