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A Housing Strategy that Furthers Exclusion and Racial Segregation

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

Through reviewing this information it is our hope to raise awareness amongst impacted communities and residents in Sacramento, so we can ensure that the City does adopt housing practices that are fair, affordable, equitable, and that its planners are not leaving the next eight years of our housing development “at the will of the market.”

The Housing Element is the City’s eight-year housing strategy and commitment for how it will meet the housing needs of everyone in the community. Except, not everyone in the community needs housing. The Housing Element is mandated by State Law and is part of the City’s General Plan. It outlines the City’s strategy for housing and how it will comprehensively address the existing and projected housing needs of everyone in the City for the next eight years (2021-2029).

It is important to note that the Housing Element is a plan for zoning NOT for housing development. It does not say “This lot must have a 100-unit apartment.” It says, “This lot should be zoned for up to 100 units.”

According to the adopted review of the 2021-2029 Housing Element, “equity, inclusion, and anti-displacement" are themes that are woven throughout the document and reflected in a number of policies and programs. For example: "[t]he City aims to ensure that Sacramento is an equitable and inclusive city by protecting and providing opportunities to those residents who are most vulnerable and prioritizing community resources towards historically disadvantaged communities.” Aiming to ensure is another way to say, we’re not promising anything and you can’t hold us accountable for making sure it will happen, but sure, our intent is to do it.

Another critical document that addresses housing is the City’s 2040 General Plan Update (a state-required document that lays out the long-term vision for that locality). It states, “[t]he exclusion of lower-cost housing types (e.g. duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes) prevent lower-income residents from moving to neighborhoods with the best parks, schools, and other desirable amenities. Allowing a greater array of housing types in Sacramento residential neighborhoods will help create more equitable and inclusive neighborhoods by addressing the remnant forces of government policies of exclusion and racial segregation.” The City’s 2040 General Plan Vision Statement Guiding Principle #4 states, “[c]ultivate a broad mix of housing types in all residential zones throughout the city to provide options for residents of all income levels, while protecting existing residents and communities from displacement.”

So, it sounds like the City cares about equity and inclusion right? They, at least, use all the right buzz words to convey a caring message. Now, let’s take a deeper look at the Housing Element documents.

Figure 4-3 (pictured above) is a breakdown of the total number of units (45,580) the City must plan to accommodate between June 30, 2021 to August 31, 2029. If you’re interested in seeing the percentage breakdown see Table 3-1 (pictured below).

If your eyes are seeing what ours are seeing … the city believes it need two-times market rate housing than is needed for very low-income. This gives us pause. Also in the Housing Element are several maps that help us analyze the information.

Below is a map, Figure 3-3, which looks at opportunity areas to build housing. The darker colors are considered high resource areas and the lighter green is lower resource areas. The yellow is high segregation and poverty.

Now, remember where these lighter colors exist (or lower resource areas) on this map when you look at the next map below.

The next map, figure 4-6 (pictured below), is titled Risk of Gentrification. The darker purple areas have ongoing gentrification and the medium light purple areas are at risk of gentrification. Also, take notice of the light blue line that runs in the middle of the gentrifying and low resource areas. This is the lightrail corridor that will be used in the City’s planning around transit-oriented development.

After looking at both maps, we can reasonably conclude that lower resource areas undoubtedly experience gentrification and displacement. And these neighborhoods and residents will be directly impacted by planning around transit sites, which may be (hint hint) highly dense and in areas of high traffic congestion, commercial business, and poor air quality due to dangerous particulate matter from streets busy with many passenger vehicles.

And then there is another map that shows different planning communities that city planners have been using to create the Housing Element.

Figure 3-1 (pictured below) shows where the vacant and under-utilized parcels exist in the different planning communities. The dark cluster dots are vacant and underutilized sites. The bar graphs in each neighborhood area are color coded. Pink represents vacant, light green represents lower income, and darker green represents above income. Again, take notice of that blue dotted line and how many dark cluster dots surround it.

Most of the vacant and underutilized parcels identified in the Housing Element’s Sites Inventory are in traditionally multi-ethnic low resource areas.

There is another helpful chart, Table 3-3 (pictured below), in the Housing Element that helps to identify the amount of infill that is anticipated on vacant or underutilized lots. We also want to draw your attention to the fact that some areas have a massive amount of lower-income units while others do not.

We break this chart down by looking at infill (vacant or underutilized land) in high resource areas. Take notice that all these high resource areas have a maximum RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Allocation) of around one percent and if you add all of them up it only accounts for around two percent of RHNA in infill.

Now let’s look at the infill breakdown for low resource areas. These two majority low resource and multi-ethnic community areas are going to bear the burden of taking on around twenty-five percent of RHNA.

Were we not assured that this Housing Element was going to move low-income residents into higher resource areas? At least, that’s what Mayor Steinberg has declared it in press releases.

At the City’s Planning and Design Commission Meeting on July 22, 2021, Matt Hertel, City Planner, said, “…we are using a SACOG (Sacramento Area Council of Governments) grant to bring on a consulting team to get a little more resources and to work with planning staff… how do we offer more housing choice and housing options, especially in our higher resource neighborhoods...?” Apparently, after the city has been working on this for three years and paying an experienced consultant, Dyett & Bhatia, nearly $2.5 million (contract published for 10-day review on 9/20/2018) they are still trying to figure out how to move lower income residents into higher resource areas. This is deeply troubling.

In the image below we have the top 10 low-income housing sites from the sites inventory, which are all concentrated in low-resource areas. South Area is abbreviated as (SA), Fruitridge/Broadway is abbreviated as (FB), and Central City is abbreviated as (CC).

Concentrations of multi-family rentals contribute to instability with a combination of crime, poverty and unemployment making the area less desirable.

Let’s look at the top 10 above moderate income housing sites (pictured below). North Sacramento is abbreviated as (NS) and North Natomas is abbreviated as (NN). The South Area housing sites in this image are located in the upcoming, luxury end of Delta Shores.

The last piece of information from the Housing Element we want to leave our readers with pertains to Environmental Justice. We’re circling back to that blue line we mentioned where transit-oriented development will occur.

There are millions of dollars available for housing developments near public transportation. While we understand that most low-income populations have a high need for public transportation, there are also long-term health consequences for people living right next to transportation corridors such as highways and major commercial roadways like Florin Rd. We did a random case study and looked at parcel sites designated for residential mixed-use housing in Woodbine neighborhood. These are sites (pictured below) pulled from the Housing Element. Below, we highlighted two site addresses directly in the path of the lightrail and the max number of units the city says can be built.

We can reasonably conclude that high density, low to moderate income housing, is going to be built in an already low resource, multi-ethnic area that has high traffic congestion and awful air quality. Unfortunately, the City adopted this Housing Element on August 17, 2021 and now it is being reviewed by the state’s Housing and Community Development Department.

Low-income communities are more likely to disproportionately bear the burden of climate change. For example, low-income communities that are park-poor and have less green infrastructure investment are also more likely to acutely feel the effects of extreme weather events due to climate change. The Housing Element should include policies and programs to enhance climate resiliency as a component of housing development.

Finally, access to safe and affordable housing has a direct impact on public health. The very communities facing the highest rent burden are often the same frontline communities who bear the brunt of the negative impacts brought on by multiple, intersecting crises related to housing, homelessness, and environmental racism. These health disparities are brought on by land uses based on an extractive economy that contributes to environmental degradation, industrial pollution, the climate crisis, and increased health disparities for the frontline communities. The Housing Element is an opportunity to ensure that housing promotes public health with land use policies that are aligned with practices that create a more productive, equitable, and healthy regenerative use of land.

We want to thank Jennifer Holden from Mangan Park Neighborhood for her detailed analysis and review of the 2021-2029 Housing Element. While there is more to come, to see her video presentation visit this link:

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