By Stephanie Bontemps, LOPC Elder for Mission

Links to some of our local community websites:

LafayetteMoragaOrindaWalnut Creek

California ranks 49th in the United States in housing units per capita. For years now, we have not built enough housing to satisfy the need. This is now a crisis in our state, particularly in the Bay Area, with our vibrant economy and rapid job growth. Though those of us who own homes have benefited tremendously as values have increased due to lack of housing supply, many others in our community cannot afford housing at all…..and more people are pushed out of their housing each year as rents and values rise. In particular, first time homeless seniors is a rapidly growing problem.

What’s happening locally? All cities in California are required to plan for additional housing. Using Lafayette as an example, the city has a General Plan that defines the outlook for the city over a 20-25 year horizon. Last updated in 2002, Lafayette’s General Plan will be revised by the end of 2022. A General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC), a volunteer group consisting of city employees and residents, has been formed to lead the effort and take input from the community. The General Plan includes a Housing Element that is updated more often, generally every 5-8 years. California periodically issues a mandate for each community to add a specific amount of housing, called the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). Lafayette’s new RHNA allocation is 2,114 units, with specific requirements for affordable units (28% very low income, 16% low income). The revised General Plan will lay out a plan to meet these requirements.

You may also have heard of AB 2923, recently passed State legislation that requires BART-owned properties to be made available for housing with specific density (units/acre) that is typically greater than existing zoning. Communities must comply by revising zoning rules by July 1, 2022. In Lafayette, because the BART station is in a very high fire risk zone, density there may not make sense and alternative locations may be considered.

What can you do?

• First, stay informed. The issues are important and complex, so get your news from reliable sources (i.e. not just social media). Check out your city website and sign up for news to learn what your city is doing to support housing. Each of our local communities is holding meetings (virtual for now), many of which are recorded so you can listen to or watch them when convenient.

• Second, support your city’s and our state’s efforts to house all of our citizens. Welcoming new neighbors into our community is part of LOPC’s vision.

• Third, support local LOPC partner organizations that focus on housing the most needy in our community. Though LOPC donates a meaningful portion of our mission budget to these groups, your personal donations (financial or needed items) and volunteer help are much needed. Check out their websites to get on their mailing lists or contact your Mission Elders, Stephanie Bontemps and Rick Burris for more information.