Prohousing Designation Offers Key to Affordable Housing Funding
City of Sacramento earns the first designation in California
March 29, 2022: The City of Sacramento and the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) celebrated a big milestone earlier this month, when Sacramento became the first jurisdiction in the state to receive a Prohousing Designation. The program is an incentive to encourage cities and counties to create integrated policies that increase the availability of affordable housing in California.
The Prohousing Designation gives jurisdictions an edge when it comes to applying and competing for affordable housing funding by giving jurisdictions bonus points in grant application processes. “Getting additional money to help support projects in infill areas is fantastic,” shared Greg Sandlund, the City of Sacramento’s planning director. He says the city is already pretty progressive in its housing policies and they are gearing up to do more, “but when we saw this, we really wanted to be the first to have this designation.”
Chelsea Lee, housing policy manager at HCD and the lead of the Prohousing Designation program, describes it as a key to unlocking hundreds of millions of dollars in affordable housing development grants available from HCD. A jurisdiction with the Prohousing Designation status will be able to get in front of the line for programs, including Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC), Infill Infrastructure Grant (IIG), Transformative Climate Communities (TCC), and Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP).
“You hold the key to unlocking these doors. The doors lead to competitive funding programs that are tied to prohousing,” says Lee. The program promotes more integrated planning priorities and recognizes that cities and counties are doing a lot to create more inclusive communities. This key, the Prohousing Designation, gives jurisdictions a leading edge for grant opportunities.
HCD is hands-on with application assistance and has been working to make the process simple for jurisdictions. The point system is flexible, too, with 138 as the highest point total possible; only 30 points are required to earn the designation. Policies can be a mix of enacted and proposed. The flexibility allows jurisdictions to self-attest which policies they want to put up for HCD’s consideration. “It’s not just the urban jurisdictions that can benefit from this. We also want rural jurisdictions to be able to hit that point threshold,” said Lee.
To be eligible, jurisdictions must score at least one point in four categories, including zoning and land use, accelerating production time frames, reducing construction and development costs, and providing financial subsidies. So, jurisdictions get credit for policies that eliminate or reduce parking requirements, permit missing middle housing uses, and reduce transportation-related infrastructure costs, to name a few.
To get buy-in for the program and its housing policies, the City of Sacramento has been practicing ongoing communication and education to create champions for housing. “People understand benefits of good urban support, and balance the conversations,” said Sandlund. The city has been presenting and educating their citizens on housing policies at the city’s planning academy for 20 years. In addition to education and outreach, Sandlund gives credit to the city’s General Plan Maintenance Fee, which has helped give city staff the resources they need to create new policies and ordinances.
“Prohousing is designed to incentivize the removal of barriers standing in the way of the affordable housing our state so desperately needs,” said HCD’s director, Gustavo Velasquez. “It means promoting housing density by including multifamily housing, such as duplexes to fourplexes, upzoning in places near jobs and transit to reduce emissions and creating more homes in places of high opportunity for families of modest means.” These policies will help enable infill development, which creates vibrant, connected, and healthy, bustling cities.
HCD offers many helpful resources to jurisdictions on their website. The Sacramento region could see more jurisdictions earning the Prohousing Designation soon. Lee alluded to the future Prohousing Designations but couldn’t reveal where in the state those would likely be.