According to state officials in Sacramento “we have a housing crisis.” Considering all the new “green” requirements they have implemented and changes to building codes, it’s no wonder there is a “crisis.” It was created by those who think they can fix the issue with more regulation.

On Sept. 20 th the Lompoc City Council considered a staff proposal that would reduce the number of new low-income housing units being built by allowing developers to pay a fee to opt out of a requirement to build affordable housing in new developments.
The Lompoc 2030 General Plan states: “The City shall periodically evaluate its development review process for ways to facilitate the production of new sources of affordable housing, while maintaining a commitment to sound planning and environmental protection.”

And, the staff report says: “The Lompoc Municipal Code (“Inclusionary Housing Ordinance”) requires that a percentage of the units in certain housing developments be affordable to very-low, low, or moderate-income households.”

The staff was proposing to lower the current in-lieu fee of $113,998 per unit to $88,550 per unit. During council questioning, the community development director said this would provide an incentive to developers to build new houses. She was right, but these would be market-rate houses that are clearly out of reach to mid- and low-income families.

In today’s market new home construction is about $450 a square foot; thus, a modest 1,200-square-foot home would cost $540,000 to build. Pre-owned homes in this category are selling for well over $350,000 ($290 a square foot). The cost difference is $190,000.

The in-lieu program provides loans to purchase pre-owned homes; it does not add new sources of affordable housing stock to help meet Regional Housing Needs Analysis (RHNA) requirements. This change will not provide the funding needed to help the city resolve the low-income housing issue, and certainly will not help you meet RHNA requirements.

The question for the City Council was: “How do you plan to demonstrate that you’re planning to meet RHNA requirements and provide additional low and medium-income housing with this new in-lieu fee calculation if the city historically has not met the challenge in the past?”

The community development director claimed there were other sources of new low-income housing stock; however, many low-income housing projects in Lompoc have historically been conversions of aged apartment complexes of market rate housing to low-income status.

Most new units that have been built were constructed and are operated by the Santa Barbara County Housing Authority.

Will Lompoc or any other community ever be able to satisfy low-income housing mandates from Sacramento? Probably not, because if these communities come even close to meeting the current need, other forces will likely interfere with the process.

For example, many families rely on two or more jobs to make ends meet. As politicians tinker with the economy by raising the minimum wage, prices of things these folks buy rise, so the cost of everything a family needs to survive, including housing, goes up and they have gained nothing.

We have some very slow thinking politicians running the show in Sacramento; each decision they make concerning energy, the economy or housing mandates simply makes matters worse for folks who work hard.

Soon they will mandate that people who own homes will be required to house one person for every 200 square feet of floor space, even if they aren’t related to them.

Don’t laugh, the governor just signed into law new regulations that allow conversion of commercial space to residential; of course, this is probably a costly mistake since these buildings were originally developed to accommodate shoppers and business offices, not residential housing. Converting them will cost at least as much per square foot as new construction.

If we keep electing folks with the same mindset, how can we expect things to change?

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry. He has been following Lompoc politics since 1992, and after serving for 23 years appointed to various Lompoc commissions, retired from public service. The opinions expressed are his own.