Malibu’s housing element number drops from 441 to 2

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The city, which is rezoning several properties to prove to the state it can accommodate 441 units of new affordable housing, was informed that number has now dropped to two. However, the city must continue with the current rezoning to have its Housing Element Update certified.

By Knowles Adkisson / The Malibu Times

The City of Malibu, which is currently rezoning properties to meet a state requirement proving it can accommodate 441 units of affordable housing, has been informed that number has dropped to two.

“Our contention always was that the 441 numbers were based on faulty growth forecast numbers,” Malibu Planning Director Joyce Parker-Bozylinski said.

Cities are required to submit a Housing Element Update to its general plan once every eight years for certification by the state. The purpose of the housing element is to plan for expected growth and accommodate low-income residents.

The amount of low-income housing required for a particular city is determined by population forecasts made by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), a regional governmental organization that includes Malibu.

For the planning period of 2008 to 2014, SCAG determined Malibu required 441 units of affordable housing, including 188 units for residents in the low ($64,000 for a family of four) and very low ($40,000 for a family of four) income brackets. By contrast, for the previous planning period, SCAG estimated Malibu needed 14 units of affordable housing.

Between 2001 and 2010, Malibu gained just 70 new residents, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Many residents pointed to this lack of growth as evidence that the 441 figure was incorrect. City officials said in August that it appeared SCAG had included employees of Pepperdine University, located just outside the city limits, in its projections for Malibu.

But because the city did not appeal SCAG projections in 2008, they were considered final and cannot be appealed now. In order to prevent the possibility of court action from the state, the city is currently rezoning several properties to prove that developers could theoretically build 188 low- and very low-income units. The state requires low- and very low-income units to be zoned at 20 units per acre.

Hasan Ikhrata, Executive Director for SCAG, admitted to the Malibu City Council at its Aug. 22 meeting that the numbers did not add up. However, Ikhrata said the city had the opportunity to appeal the numbers in 2008 and never did. He then assured the council SCAG would not overestimate in the next cycle.

“I can tell you right now, your new allocation will be significantly lower than 441 units,” Ikhrata said.

Populations for the 2014-2021 planning period released by SCAG Nov. 30 showed that Malibu needed to prove it could provide just one low-income and one very-low income housing unit.

Parker-Bozylinski speculated that increased cooperation by the city resulted in the lower number.

“We have been working really closely with them through meetings and emails and conference calls on correcting our growth forecast numbers,” Parker-Bozylinski said, “and I think that effort paid off.”

Frank Wen, who does population forecasting for SCAG, told The Malibu Times last week the numbers for the 2008-2014 cycle were based on high growth in the ’90s in Malibu and similar high rates of growth in Los Angeles County.

When determining a community’s housing element number, Wen said SCAG tries to ensure that a certain percentage of units typically occupied by owners and renters are vacant, so there is available housing. For owner-occupied units that vacancy number is 1.5 percent, while for renter-occupied housing units it is 4.5 percent.

Wen said the 2010 U.S. Census results show there are 198 vacant units in the City of Malibu over and above the normally required vacant units used by SCAG for owners and renters. That 198 unit number was applied as a credit for the latest housing cycle. As a result, the city must only prove there is the possibility to build one low-income and one very-low income housing unit.

In the meantime, the city must continue the process of rezoning properties to account for the 188 low- and very-low income units in order to comply with the 2008-2014 housing cycle. Several parcels currently zoned at six units per acre, the maximum allowed by the city, will be rezoned at 20 units per acre.

But Parker-Bozylinski said the 14 additional units allowed per acre could only be built to accommodate affordable housing, which she said could discourage developers from taking advantage of the new high-density zoning to build apartment complexes.

Parker-Bozylinski said the city was aiming to get a certified housing element by the end of 2012. She did not anticipate the properties being rezoned for 20 units per acre would be returned to their original six units per acre zoning by the city once the housing element is completed, despite SCAG’s suspect housing figure of 188 units.