Concerns about high rental increases, trouble finding affordable housing, and habitability issues inside homes have many residents looking forward to working alongside the County as the County looks to update its Housing Element for the years 2024-2031.
“Kern County failed to take required actions to allow the development of affordable housing for many years under the previous Housing Element. It wasn’t until residents and community-based organizations intervened that the County complied with their requirements,” stated Sandra Plascencia, a Kern County Policy Advocate for Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.
The Housing Element 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.
The Housing Element of the General Plan has two purposes:
- To provide an assessment of both current and future housing needs and constraints in meeting resident’s needs.
- To provide a strategy that establishes housing goals, policies, and programs.
Kern County’s Planning and Natural Resources Department states on its Housing Element webpage that its Housing Element represents Kern County’s long-term commitment to the development and improvement of housing. However, many residents have still expressed multiple housing concerns.
“Public participation and community involvement will be key to ensure the County is held accountable to fulfill their requirements and obligations for the Housing Element,” said Plascencia. “County residents depend on a state-compliant Housing Element that meets all their needs.”
According to Kern County’s Planning and Natural Resources Department, this Housing Element identifies strategies and programs that focus on:
- Preserving and improving housing and neighborhoods.
- Providing adequate housing sites.
- Assisting in the provision of affordable housing.
- Removing governmental and other constraints on housing investment.
- Promoting fair and equal housing opportunities.
The County released a draft of its Housing Element in October, with the 30-day public review period beginning on October 13 and ending at 5 p.m. next Monday, November 13. And although the County began holding public workshops last week to discuss the Housing Element with residents, these public workshops came after the draft had already been published.
Perry Elerts, an attorney with Leadership Counsel, also made a comment on the Housing Element cycle, stating that he hopes that the County can progress its plans in a more timely manner with this upcoming cycle.
“The County took until July of this year to finally get approved for the fifth cycle, which was from 2015 to 2023. So it took them the entire planning process for HEB to finally approve the plan so we really don’t want to see that happen again,” stated Elerts. “We want the county to adopt the Housing Element in time and actually have the eight years to implement those programs.”
According to the County’s Housing Element draft, the lessons it learned from the fifth Housing Element cycle have informed plans for the upcoming sixth cycle. The draft even states that many of the new plans are continuations of current efforts, though some are newly developed.
“The fifth cycle housing element was approved in April of 2016 as required by State law. That approval included two programs, which required the rezoning of additional lands to high-density residential development. The County initiated a number of projects to implement that requirement, however, it was not until late 2021 that the State informed the County that additional rezoning was still required,” commented the Kern County Planning and Natural Resources Department Assistant Director Craig Murphy.
Murphy went on to explain that in 2022, the County completed a rezoning effort that resulted in 290 acres of additional high-density residential development throughout unincorporated Kern County.
“In July of 2023, the State confirmed the requested actions undertaken in 2022 were sufficient to meet the rezoning requirements. Staff could not begin work on the sixth cycle until we were provided a final Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) from Kern COG, which did not occur until January of this year. Staff anticipates consideration and final adoption of the sixth cycle housing element by the Kern County Board of Supervisors in March of 2024,” said Murphy.
The Housing Element draft entails the County’s goals for the sixth cycle of the element, which are as follows:
- Conserve and improve the quality of existing housing and residential neighborhoods in the County
- Assist in the provision of adequate housing to meet the needs of County residents by implementing all State-mandated land use and zoning laws and reducing potential governmental constraints to housing production and affordability
- Promote equal opportunity for all residents to reside in housing of their choice
- Facilitate the provision of housing suited to persons with special housing needs
- Pursue sustainable development for new and existing residential housing stock
The County will be hosting its third and final public workshop on November 9 at 7 p.m. during the scheduled Planning Commission meeting at the Board of Supervisors chambers located at 1115 Truxtun Avenue.
Any written comments can be submitted to the County during this public meeting, or by emailing Craig Murphy at MurphyC@kerncounty.com, or by mailing them to Craig Murphy at 2700 M Street, Suite 100, Bakersfield, CA, 93301.
“Leadership Counsel and residents look forward to working alongside the County to ensure the Housing Element includes programs which meet the needs of every resident,” Plascencia stated.