Affordable Housing Month gets into the affordability nitty-gritty

A home under construction
(Via Pixabay)

Fifteen events in May focus on what it will take to put a dent in the affordability crisis in Santa Cruz County.

What does affordable housing really look like in Santa Cruz — and what can community members learn about the process of planning, designing and building for affordability?

Affordable Housing Month kicks off Sunday, aiming to push the wider community forward on that question.

For five years in the Bay Area, May has served as a rallying point for an affordable housing focus. In Santa Cruz, lead organizer Housing Santa Cruz County — made up of community members, nonprofits, service providers and more — celebrates its own one-year anniversary during the event’s run. Its chair, Don Lane, explains its aims.

“We’re really trying to get people tuned in to affordable housing in general, and understand how this part of the process is important for them to engage in, or it just won’t happen,” he said. “The quality of the work each community does to develop more housing will have a real impact on how much affordable housing is built.”

Over the course of May, the organization will host 15 events across the county, both virtually and in person, with various opportunities for learning about affordability, including self-guided bike tours hosted by the city of Santa Cruz, four housing project groundbreakings, and discussions about the regional housing needs allocation numbers looking forward. The events are detailed here.

Jessica de Wit, housing and community development manager for the city of Santa Cruz’s Housing Division, told Lookout that the goal of the month is to demonstrate the yearslong process to get housing — particularly affordable housing developments — off the ground (literally).

“These developments don’t happen overnight — you may start to get people excited, but it’s then a three-to-five-year journey from there,” she said. “That’s why events like this are so important, to make sure the broader community knows what’s happening and keep them engaged in the process.”

Ultimately, Lane said, the month is a chance to get locals tuned into the process of affordable housing development: “This is laying the groundwork for people to get more involved, and understand how the jurisdiction they live in is actually making important decisions, because they don’t always see the background.”

Housing Santa Cruz County will host an in-person kickoff to celebrate the start of Affordable Housing Month on Sunday at Sesnon House at Cabrillo College, beginning at 2 p.m. Guest speakers include District 17 State Sen. John Laird, District 30 Assemblymember Robert Rivas, State Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Cabrillo College trustee Adam Spickler. Interested community members can register here.

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