County builds way to ‘Prohousing’ designation

Gov. Newson designates Tulare County as Prohousing community, allows county better access to grants and state funds to encourage further housing development

Homes sold in the Diamond Oaks housing development on W Caldwell and S Edison St. (Kenny Goodman)
Homes sold in the Diamond Oaks housing development on W Caldwell and S Edison St. (Kenny Goodman)
Mid Valley Times Staff
Published February 5, 2024  • 
12:00 pm

SACRAMENTO – As California continues to work towards getting a handle on its housing shortage, Tulare County, along with seven other communities, has been recognized for its efforts in stepping up to the plate.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Jan. 31 that Tulare County has earned itself a designation as a Prohousing community through its effort to encourage housing developments at all income levels. The announcement brings the total number of California’s Prohousing communities to 37.

“We need to aggressively build more housing to support Californians,” Newsom said via press release of the announcement. “Prohousing cities move to the front of the line when it comes to incentives, funding and other state resources. It’s critical for more communities to join in this distinction and build their fair share of housing.”

According to the release, while the state continues to face a housing crisis that was “decades in the making,” some communities fail to meet state housing goals. However, others have stepped up to increase housing in their area, thus becoming “Prohousing” communities; and to reward these efforts, are given priority for home-building resources to help meet the statewide goal of 2.5 million homes by 2030.

As per the designation’s requirements, Tulare County has a few new housing developments in the works that serve as a good example of what it means to be a Prohousing community. According to the Tulare County Resource Management agency, development is mostly occurring in Goshen on the West side of the freeway, where two subdivisions are currently being planned. That is over 1,000 units being built and mapped since 2017.

Other communities that received the designation of Prohousing include the cities of Eureka, Healdsburg, Mountain View, Petaluma, San Luis Obispo and Santa Monica.

“Communities whether large or small, rural or urban, are actively working to accelerate the development of housing for Californians at all income levels,” HCD Director Gustavo Velasquez said via the press release. “We are pleased to be able to reward our Prohousing partners with incentives to help them build on their innovative efforts to break down barriers to development.”

Becoming “Prohousing” designated

According to the Governor’s office, through the Prohousing Designation program, Prohousing communities receive additional “points” in the scoring of competitive housing, community development and infrastructure funding, which is administered by the HCD. This allows the communities greater access to grants and state funding, encouraging the creation of new housing.

To qualify for the designation, Tulare County’s planning director Aaron Bock said the county had to achieve a minimum of 30 points to fall into the program’s guidelines, and achieved 43. It achieved these by improving some categories, such as having low construction costs and subsidized housing programs, which increased their chances of becoming Prohousing designated.

“We do have quite a few housing programs in the county – probably a little bit more because of our disadvantaged communities than some of the other cities and counties across the state. So we got a lot of points for that,” Bock said. 

According to Bock, the county first heard about the program about three years ago and started going through the application process to qualify as Prohousing. He noted Tulare County already qualified for the program in many ways, achieving the title of “Prohousing” by cutting through red tape processes where applicable and doing what it can to speed up housing approvals. 

One of the ways the county achieved this, in particular, was by making some recent ordinance changes that coincide with the Prohousing designation and the Housing Element Update, said Bock, allowing more units in all residential zones with less regulatory review and over the counter building permitting of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU). 

ADUs are an affordable type of home construct, because they do not require paying for land, new major infrastructure, structured parking or elevators, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). On the HCD website, they are described as an “innovative and effective option for adding much needed housing in California.”

Bock said most ADU developments in the county have been near cities, like Lindsay and Exeter, on Rural Residential properties, in downtown areas or in smaller communities such as Cutler Orosi, Strathmore and Earlimart. So, according to him, the county expects to see a greater increase in ADU development in the upcoming year.

He went on to explain that the county has zoned more areas as “mixed-use” zoning to increase housing using ADUs without needing the area to be zoned as residential. The county has also expanded its definition of residential one-unit zoning to allow for at least two or more dwelling units.

“We’re allowing ADU’s and junior ADU’s wherever residential development is allowed in the county, not just in residential zones,” Bock said.

Mid Valley Times Staff