California Plans a Housing Infrastructure Spending Spree
Funds would accelerate infill development across Sacramento region to help achieve region’s climate goals
In his May budget revision, Governor Newsom proposed investing $500 million to boost regional land use plan implementation; and the legislature doubled down by upping that investment to $600 million in the adopted, but still unsigned, state budget. Every region in California must develop a regional land use plan called a Sustainable Communities Strategy that acts to underpin the respective region’s Metropolitan Transportation Plan and is a critical piece to reining in greenhouse gas production from the transportation sector. This massive boost in funding would allow regions to be more proactive in boosting development and projects that help increase mobility and/or decrease greenhouse gas production. An Administration fact sheet explains that the “new funds will provide grants to regional entities for transformative and innovative projects that implement a region’s sustainable communities strategy and help achieve goals of more housing and transportation options.”
In the Sacramento region, the funding would be used to boost development in existing, or infill, areas. Cities and counties have already identified priority infill development areas that need improved sewer, water, and other infrastructure to realize new development. Those prioritized areas have been designated Green Zones as part of the regional Green Means Go pilot program. The pilot program was established this month by SACOG’s board to accelerate development and boost travel options in areas that already have some existing development. The board further directed that racial equity and inclusion, as well as economic equity, be considered in the program’s funding guidelines.
The advance work puts the six-county region in a prime spot to capitalize on the one-time funds. According to Placer County Supervisor Bonnie Gore, “The Sacramento region is ready to help support new housing. We’ve already identified a huge need in infrastructure that would support housing development, particularly in infill areas, so this funding couldn’t come at a better time.”
What those cities and counties need to boost development and travel options varies depending both on geography and on how much planning work has already occurred in the Green Zone. Community needs range from starting planning efforts such as community engagement and a specific plan that sets the vision for a corridor or neighborhood, whereas some will need large catalytic-scale funding to spark the development in a zone, and other projects will have some funding already lined up but just need to fill the last gap to get under construction. The project needs will also vary zone to zone based on community types; some areas are looking to spark new development, and others would like to preserve a corridor while enhancing travel options such as adding transit or electric car charging to lower vehicle emissions and to increase mobility options.
It took two tries, but the legislature has passed a state budget that the governor has indicated that he’ll sign. Many parts of the budget will require additional legislation to fully enact; however, the housing funding appears to be set. How the program is administered by the state and how the funds will be distributed is an ongoing discussion.