Sonoma County's southern border is approximately 35 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge, close enough to enjoy the economic and cultural benefits of San Francisco. Concentrated population and continued demand for more affordable housing along the Highway 101 corridor demonstrates the tie between San Francisco and Sonoma County. The urbanized areas have increased their populations significantly, some doubling or tripling their populations. Gently rolling agricultural lands extend a wide Green Belt that supports farming, dairy, orchards, and vineyards. The wine growing region not only responds to the growing market for fine wines, but also hosts one of the most important tourist attractions in California.
The County of Sonoma has committed its FY 1995/96 funds for activities which will provide decent housing, promote housing choices, aid the homeless, assist in meeting the needs of the handicapped, facilitate economic development and create or replace infrastructure systems, (all principally to benefit low and moderate income households). Total funds available from Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Federal Emergency Shelter Grant (FESGP) and Home Investments Partnerships (HOME) programs is $3,733,000. Short term objectives in this fiscal year consist of the improvement of 23 to 50 existing housing units, the increase of the affordable housing supply, and increasing the housing choices for low and moderate income persons through cooperation with the Sonoma County Housing Authority and six non-profit organizations. Also planned are seven specific public facility and infrastructure systems improvements throughout the county.
The Sonoma County Community Development Commission (SCCDC), as lead agency,
utilizes a variety of local resources in order to involve the community in the
process of assessing needs, prioritizing proposals, selecting proposals for
funding, monitoring funded activities and projects, as well as assessing
performance and providing accountability. All meetings are noticed in the local
press at least 10 days prior. The proposed Final Statement or Application for
Funding accompanying the Consolidated Plan will be noticed 30 days prior to the
decision of the Board of Supervisors, to allow for written comments. All
meetings have language translators and signers available for the hearing
impaired, if requested by any participant. All meetings are handicapped
accessible. The Community Development Committee (CDC), the Technical Advisory
Committee (TAC), the Board of Supervisors, County Departments, Participating
Cities and Non-profit agencies all serve as resources to citizens and
According to the 1990 census, the population of Sonoma County was 388,222. 84.34% of the population was Caucasian, 10.62% was Hispanic, 2.64% was Asian, 1.36% was African American and the remaining 1.04% were other minorities.
Though highly desirable for its quality of life, Sonoma County's economy demonstrates contradictions that affect housing and related needs. There is a disparity between the high cost of housing and the employment available. Wages have failed to keep pace with inflation and housing costs over the past decade. Prolonged unemployment and underemployment have contributed to the rise of substandard housing and homelessness. The most affordable housing stock in the County is located along the Russian River and in unincorporated areas of Santa Rosa, those areas most vulnerable to natural disasters, like the recent floods of January and March, 1995.
Retail sales in the municipalities account for the greatest proportion of
new job growth in the area. Losses in the manufacturing arena in the past
several years have been somewhat offset by an influx of small, high tech
companies. Government remains the largest employer in the area.
There are over 600 vacant rental units in Sonoma County advertised on a given day in the local newspaper. Despite the large number of vacant rental units, the high cost for these units relative to median income levels prevent affordability to low income families. The Sonoma County Section 8 Rental Assistance and the HOME funded Tenant Based Assistance programs allow market-rate housing to become affordable to low income families.
Sonoma County has experienced extensive growth in recent years. Housing prices have increased due to higher development costs including land, labor, and materials.
The result has been that households with low and moderate incomes found it almost impossible to purchase a home in the current market place. Very low income households are often rent burdened or they must share living arrangements which result in overcrowded conditions. High rates of inflation in the early 1980s gave way to an economic recession in the early 1990s. Although there had been a significant drop in the rate of inflation in home interest rates since 1990 and there had been some decline in home prices and rental rates, median home prices in Sonoma County are still some of the highest in the nation. A new increase in interest rates will further impact housing affordability. Housing needs of our community are affected not only by affordability, but by the quality of the housing stock, age of the population, and special needs of various types of populations.
Affordable rental housing is scarce in Sonoma County. Though many vacant rental units exist in the County, few of these are affordable to low income families and too many households overpay for their housing expenses. The local demand for rental housing subsidies is tremendous. The waiting list is years long and there are not nearly enough resources to meet the demand. Another critical housing demand in Sonoma County is for the rehabilitation of deteriorating existing housing.
Currently there are over 5,000 households on the Section 8 waiting list, all of whom are very low income. Many of the households waiting to receive assistance remain homeless or at risk, improperly housed, and under served. Of these households, many have specific special needs including, but not limited to the elderly, large families, disabled and homeless.
The Sonoma County Task Force on the Homeless estimates some 5,000-7,000 county residents with no permanent home at one time during 1994. Of this number, about 40 percent are children.
Currently, no public housing projects exist within Sonoma County. The Sonoma County Housing Authority administers the Section 8 Rental Assistance Certificate and Voucher Programs on a countywide basis. The Housing Authority also administers a Tenant Based Assistance component of the Home Investments Partnership Act Program (HOME) under contract with the Sonoma County Community Development Commission. Additional rental assistance is provided through the Housing Authority under the State of California Aftercare Certificate and Voucher Programs. The Sonoma County Housing Authority administers the Section 8 Rental Assistance Certificate and Voucher Programs on a countywide basis.
There are many variables which can negatively impact the production and/ or maintenance of affordable housing. A few are review process, density standards, codes and enforcement, growth management, second unit ordinances, waste water treatment capacity and zoning and land uses.
From input at the public hearings addressing community needs and the project proposals it is clear that there is a need, as well as a mandate, for an avenue to address discrimination in housing. Sonoma County has contributed to the funding resources for Sonoma County Rental Information and Mediation Service (SCRIMS).
The County facilitates lead abatement through their housing rehabilitation programs. Property owners applying for rehabilitation assistance receive notice of the potential hazards of lead-based paint.
Mobile home owners and renters across the County have expressed the need for rent control, rehabilitation, preservation of the infrastructure of the parks, and conversion to park ownership. In recent years Sonoma County has witnessed an increasing demand for transitional housing opportunities from emergency homeless shelters to homeownership. The demand for the continued operation and upkeep of emergency shelter programs in Sonoma County is always prevalent. Sonoma County has experienced a steady demand for special needs housing. Sonoma County's large agricultural and grape harvesting economy also creates the demand for specialized housing for farmworkers and their families.
Sonoma County has a need for construction, maintenance, rehabilitation of
its infrastructure (roads, streets, sidewalks, curbs, water and sewer
facilities, etc.). Some of the County's rural areas and Target Areas lack
adequate facilities. In addition, the requirements of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA) require that public facilities provide for accessibility
for persons with disabilities.
The primary Sonoma County Housing and Community Development Objective is the development of viable living environments, the provision of decent housing and suitable living environments, and the expansion of economic opportunities principally for persons of low or moderate income.
As to specific community development issues, Sonoma County has set as its first group of priorities:
As specifically related to the issue of housing priorities, Sonoma County has set as its first priority the provision of affordable housing through rental subsidies to make existing rental units affordable and the development of new affordable housing for low income and special needs populations. The second priority is that of rehabilitation of dilapidated housing stock, preservation of home ownership, preservation of "at-risk" housing, and neighborhood revitalization. The third priority is the preservation of affordable Mobile home housing through rehabilitation efforts and earthquake bracing.
The County has outlined its non-housing community development needs, based upon data and information available in the community. During the citizen participation process, constituent groups, public agencies and the County determined that the needs expressed will have the following goals consistent with other eligible factors:
All of the programs funded through FESG funds and virtually all of the programs funded through CDBG funds involve efforts to reduce the number of people in poverty. Types of programs supported offer supportive services to program participants ranging from family counseling to job skill development. The County has an ongoing commitment to provide funding to groups dedicated to the prevention of homelessness.
Federal financial resources include the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG), the Federal Emergency Shelter Grants Program (FESG), HOME/HOPE Programs, Mortgage Revenue Bond Program, Rural Economic Community Development Service (RECD), HUD Section 108/202 and Section 8 Rental Subsidies.
State resources include the California Rental Housing Construction Program, California Predevelopment Loan Program, California Farmworker Grant and Loan Program, California Housing Rehabilitation Program for Owner and state low income housing tax credits.
Local resources consist of Redevelopment Housing Set Asides and In Lieu Fees. Local private non-profit organizations, funds and foundations contribute greatly to the effort of providing housing and services to the disadvantaged, needy or the disabled.
The Commission operates as the County's Housing Authority, Redevelopment Agency and CDBG/HOME/FESGP Administrator/Implementor. The Commission is also the clearing house for affordable housing activity in Sonoma County. As a result, the Commission functions in different roles depending on the housing priority being addressed.
As the CDBG/HOME/FESGP Administrator, the Commission is responsible for the
issuance of Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to non-profits and governmental
agencies wishing to become subrecipients under the CDBG, HOME and FESGP
programs. The Commission subsequently is the contract administrator, monitor,
and technical assistance provider to selected subrecipients. As the Housing
Authority, the Commission administers all Section 8 housing assistance awarded
to the County. In its role as the County Redevelopment Agency, the Commission
provides funding from its housing set-aside to develop and construct new
The Cities of Cotati and Rohnert Park have experienced closures or cutbacks of several substantial employers in recent years. Implementation of employment and business retention/attraction programs are proposed to benefit lower income individuals in the Cities of Cotati and Rohnert Park.
In recognition of community needs for public improvements and facilities in the unincorporated County areas, the Board of Supervisors allocated fifteen percent of the new 1995/96 CDBG funds solely for that purpose. As a result, the Monte Rio Street Lighting Project, Graton Road ADA improvements, Sonoma Valley Curb, Gutter and Sidewalk project, Sonoma Valley Regional Park, and Doran Beach Regional Park ADA improvements are proposed for the benefit of lower income persons and neighborhoods.
Other public improvement projects proposed are the Rivers Bend Natural Gas line installation in the City of Healdsburg, the Franklin Street Neighborhood Park in the Town of Windsor and ADA improvements to provide public access in the City of Sebastopol.
The County employs the target area concept for the implementation of CDBG projects. It has determined that the concentration of funds in a low-moderate income neighborhood provides a greater impact than a scattered program and thereby takes a comprehensive approach to meeting community development needs in its neighborhoods. This target area concept does not eliminate the possibility that there will be projects selected which might operate city-wide or county-wide; however, most projects will be targeted to specific areas. In general, the majority of substandard, deteriorated, and over-crowded housing units are located in the unincorporated areas of the county. The 1994 Target Area Study identifies the County neighborhoods where housing is most in need of upgrading. Other projects will be located within the jurisdictions of the participating cities of Rohnert Park, Cotati, Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Sonoma, Cloverdale and the Town of Windsor.
Sonoma County, acting through the Sonoma County Community Development Commission (SCCDC), serves as lead agency for all funds received from CDBG, FESG, HOME or other programs. The SCCDC works closely with other county departments and a large variety of public service agencies to achieve the goals and objectives previously discussed. In this program year the Department of Transportation and Public Works and Sonoma County Regional Parks have received funding for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) projects.
The County also serves as lead agency and works in cooperation with the Cities of Rohnert Park, Cotati, Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Sonoma, Cloverdale and the Town of Windsor for projects located within their jurisdictions.
Additionally, Sonoma County will fund and oversee the activities of ten non-profit public service entities who assist lower income persons.
Improve Existing Housing Stock: The County currently administers rehabilitation programs in Roseland, Santa Rosa Avenue/ East Bellevue, Rohnert Park, Windsor, Russian River Area, Sonoma, and Sonoma Valley. The City of Sonoma and the County on behalf of the Russian River Area received 1995-96 funds to implement housing rehabilitation programs.
Increase Housing Supply: Multi-family units for low and moderate income households are also in short supply. Currently there are over 5,000 families on the Housing Authority's waiting list for rental assistance in the urban county. The average waiting time for a family to be able to receive rental assistance is four years. A total of four CDBG proposals will preserve or increase the supply of affordable housing throughout the County.
Increase Housing Choices: Housing choices for families, minorities, single parents and the disabled are limited. There is a need to ensure the availability of housing for these groups. The 1995/96 CDBG Policies place a high priority on funding projects that provide permanent affordable housing for very low and lower income persons.
MAP 2 depicts points of interest and low-moderate income areas.
MAP 3 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, and minority concentration levels.
MAP 4 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, and unemployment levels.
MAP 5 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, unemployment levels, and proposed HUD funded projects.