The Oxnard City Council could reverse a recent emphasis on upscale housing in Oxnard on Tuesday when it reviews the city's efforts to meet its affordable housing goals.
The council is scheduled to review the city's affordable housing policies and practices during an afternoon study session at City Hall.
With the election of three new council members in the past year, council sentiment may change in favor of affordable housing, Housing Director Sal Gonzalez said.
"We are detecting a shift on the council," said Gonzalez, who noted that newly elected council members Andres Herrera, Thomas Edward Holden and Bedford Pinkard ran for office partly on a low-cost housing platform.
"This is an opportunity for the council to re-examine our current policies and chart a new direction," Gonzalez said.
Together with Mayor Manuel Lopez--a long-time advocate for affordable housing--the new council members could form a solid bloc in support of housing for lower-income residents.
According to a report by Dinah Lockhart, a city housing analyst, Oxnard has not kept up with the housing goals the city adopted in 1990.
During a five-year period that will end in 1994, the city should be adding 1,700 housing units for households with income ranging from very low to moderate, according to the housing element of the city's General Plan.
But city planners recently reported to the Planning Commission that only about 10% of the 675 units constructed during the last two years qualified as affordable.
In the meantime, more than 7,000 Oxnard households are overcrowded, although there are 1,000 vacant rental units, Lockhart said. "The simple explanation is that there are families in this city who cannot afford the median rent of $700 for a two-bedroom apartment unit," Lockhart said in the report.
The city had 2,494 families on the waiting list for federally subsidized housing units as of March 30, according to Lockhart's report. A majority will receive assistance within four years or withdraw from the waiting list.
Part of the reason for Oxnard's failure to meet its housing goals is the ongoing economic slump, which has slowed all construction, Gonzalez said.
"The city does not build housing on its own," he said. "When we adopted the housing element, we were banking on housing being produced at the same level of the last 10 years."
But with the building slowdown, actual construction fell short of the annual goal of 420 dwelling units called for in the city's Growth Management Element.
Oxnard's stock of affordable housing is still the largest in any city in the county, Gonzalez said. The city owns 780 low-cost units and subsidizes an additional 1,336 units, a report says.
But support for affordable housing dried up in recent years, Gonzalez said. "For a few years, the council was going in the direction of not developing affordable housing and instead trying to achieve a balance by constructing high-end housing" in the Mandalay Bay area and the city's northwest section.
"But I think this council has seen that we achieved that goal and now wants to focus on those left behind," Gonzalez said.
In the past year, the city has made seed money available to developers who included low-cost housing as part of their project, Gonzalez said.
"The word is out now that the city is working with developers," Gonzalez said. "Since then, we have been inundated with inquiries from builders. That's part of the reason for Tuesday's meeting, to decide how we handle the interest."