Kern County community addresses housing issues, advocates demand inclusive Housing Element

September 7, 2023 /

On Wednesday evening, the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability held a community housing meeting in Lamont to uplift community voices and discuss Kern County’s Housing Element with community members.

Kern County will be adopting its Housing Element by the end of this year as Kern residents continue to face increased housing costs and evictions without anywhere to move due to the limited housing supply. 

Sandra Plascencia, a policy Advocate for Leadership Counsel, explained that some of the main issues in Kern County are rent increases above the 10% that is allowed and many habitability issues throughout the county. 

“We did canvas in Lamont for the meeting — we had a lot of folks who were gracious enough to let us inside of their units and we did see broken appliances, a lot of mold, broken tiles. To the point where they get really sharp so if you’re walking you could cut yourself,” Plascencia stated. “Porches were falling apart, there were wastewater issues with wastewater seeping into the parking lots.”

Another issue throughout the county is the fact that many houses don’t have access to air conditioning. Instead, their units are supplied with swamp coolers, which they stated don’t really cool down their homes when the outside temperature is in triple digits. 

Plascencia and the community stated that, in the past, the County has not sufficiently been meeting the housing needs of its residents. Plascencia even revealed in an interview that the county’s Planning and Natural Resources Department just recently labeled their latest Housing Element as in compliance, meaning previous Housing Elements weren’t filed in compliance.

The last Housing Element planning period began in 2015 and is coming to an end in 2023 and provides an identification and analysis of existing and projected housing needs and a statement of goals, policies, and implementation programs that enable Kern County to meet its share of Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), including the needs of special needs groups and all economic segments of the County.

According to Kern County’s Planning and Natural Resources Department, the Housing Element has two purposes:

  1. To provide an assessment of both current and future housing needs and constraints in meeting resident’s needs.
  2. To provide a strategy that establishes housing goals, policies, and programs.

Before their community meeting yesterday, Leadership Counsel stated that the county is responsible for addressing housing issues such as the shortage of affordable housing, illegal rental increases, unsafe living conditions, overcrowding, evictions, and much more. 

Leadership Counsel is urging community members to uplift their voices because the county must plan for everyone’s housing needs. 

“We definitely encourage the county to do community workshops and try to meet the community where they’re at by doing door-to-door outreach, which includes educational workshops with information on the Housing Element to make sure communities are involved,” said Plascencia. “We especially want this in communities that are usually involved like Lamont, Lost Hills, Fuller Acres, Rexland Acres, and Greenfield. We want to make sure that the county includes these areas in their Housing Element update because we know in the past that they haven’t and these are the folks with the most pressing housing needs.”

Additionally, the County has a survey available on its website to gather input from the community about existing housing needs. The survey is available in both English and Spanish.

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