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Burbank officials face hurdles when addressing city’s housing needs

Burbank City Hall
The Burbank City Council discussed how to address the city’s affordable-housing needs during a study session last week.
(File Photo)

Burbank officials will likely have a rough road in front of them as they tackle the city’s housing needs.

Council members held a study session last week to get an update on the city’s affordable-housing strategy and the obstacles that lie ahead.

Maribel Leyland, the city’s housing authority manager, told members they’ve been on the right path for several years. In just the past two years, Burbank has adopted policies addressing affordable housing and homelessness issues in the city.

Early this year, council members established a housing goal of 12,000 units over the next 15 years, with an emphasis on planning for housing around the 5 Freeway.

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However, Leyland said there have been changes to state laws and the overall economy that may make it more difficult for the city to reach its goals as well as meet state standards.

One change that will affect Burbank’s housing strategy is the state’s updated regional housing-needs allocation requirements, which mandate that cities in California develop plans for future housing by identifying opportunity sites where new housing can be constructed.

Leyland said the upcoming changes will significantly raise the minimum number of future housing units required by the state to about 7,800 units over the next eight-year cycle, which starts in 2021.

Cities do not have to build out the number of units required by the state within each cycle, but they must identify sites where they could be built.

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What makes identifying sites for these housing units more challenging is that cities can no longer reidentify a site they have identified in the past toward their new figures.

“[The California Department of Housing and Community Development] will only accept new opportunity sites when cities can prove that the sites are feasible for development within the eight-year cycle,” Leyland said.

In order to help the city meet both its own housing goals and requirements set by the state, Leyland said city officials should consider policy updates that might help them in the long run.

Since the processing of housing projects and developments can take a long time, Leyland said city officials should consider streamlining the application and review processes, so projects can be completed as quickly as possible.

Additionally, Kathe Head, a managing principal with the consulting firm Keyser Marston Associates Inc., said the city should make sure its own regulations are consistent with local and state laws and do not impede on housing production.

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