EL CERRITO -- Discussions have started on how the city can fulfill its fair share of affordable housing for the region, a process complicated by a shortage of developable sites and government funding mechanisms.

According to a state mandate, El Cerrito must strive to make it possible for developers to build 398 housing units for people with extremely low, low, and moderate incomes over the next eight years.

El Cerrito's segment is part of a total need of 187,990 affordable units across the Bay Area identified in a study done by the Association of Bay Area Governments.

The study is the basis for a "needs assessment" required by the state Housing and Community Development Department.

El Cerrito and other cities and counties statewide must prepare a plan identifying sites that could be available for housing development, as well as plans for providing smooth permitting processes for developing the sites and outreach programs to developers, said Hilde Myall, the city's housing program manager.

The city has been unable to provide any financing for such projects since its redevelopment agency was dissolved, along with others statewide, in 2011.

Nonetheless, there are other things El Cerrito can do, such as lowering parking requirements and raising height limits of buildings to accommodate greater densities on smaller lots, Myall said.


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"We aren't going to be building the housing, but we need to build that capacity into our zoning," Myall said at a community workshop on affordable housing on July 19. "The market builds the units, and the market may or may not show up."

El Cerrito's share of affordable housing includes 50 units for people with "extremely low incomes," defined as 30 percent of the median local income, and 50 units for "very low income," or 50 percent of the median income.

It also includes 63 units for "low income," or 51 percent to 80 percent of median income, 69 units for "moderate income," or 81 to 120 percent of median, and 166 units for "above moderate income," or 120 percent of median and above.

The 2014 median income for a family of four in El Cerrito is $93,500.

As Bay Area population has grown, El Cerrito's population and housing stock have remained fairly stable over the past 15 years, according to the ABAG study.

Real estate prices in the city have risen as demand for housing has outstripped supply.

The median home sale price in 2013 was $565,000, compared with a county high of $1,070,000 in Lafayette and a low of $216,491 in Richmond.

"The current home price is out of reach for moderate income households," Myall said.

The city's senior population is down slightly in the 2010 census compared with 2000 and its percentage of large households, which include those with five or more members, was 6.5 percent, compared with 13.2 percent for Contra Costa County as a whole.

One affordable housing development, Ohlone Gardens, at 6431 Portola Drive, is now under construction. Another project, Eden Senior Housing, next to City Hall at 10848 San Pablo Ave., is awaiting the sale of tax credits to fund construction.

Ohlone Gardens will have 57 units of rental housing while Eden Senior Housing will provide 63 units.

The housing element, one aspect of the city's general plan, will also address "the housing needs of the entire community and preservation of the existing housing stock" by enforcement of building codes and rental inspections, Myall said.

"We also need to preserve the quality of what we have," she said.

The city will hold a second community workshop on the Housing Element Update 2015-2023 on Aug. 13. The city is hoping to complete the final evaluation and adoption by the City Council in February.

Workshop
The next workshop on El Cerrito's housing element is 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 13 at City Hall, 10890 San Pablo Ave. For details and updates, visit el-cerrito.org/index.aspx?nid=900 or contact Housing Program Manager Hilde Myall at 510-215-4358.