OCEANSIDE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--As California’s housing crisis deepens, perpetuating the state’s nearly last place ranking for producing housing, a new farm-based community known as “North River Farms” in Oceanside, California is being challenged by a referendum. The community, planned around workforce housing with 50 percent priced for FHA financeability, is being challenged by a referendum which directly conflicts with state housing law. Instead of putting families in homes this November, opponents seek to have voters use ballot box planning to overturn the zoning change already approved by the City of Oceanside.
The city finds itself in the middle of a battle between the authors of the referendum, a group of local anti-growth activists and homeowners from a nearby affluent and upscale community whose goal is to prevent the development of more affordably priced housing in the area, and SB 330, a law enacted to expedite and expand housing construction.
“The referendum violates Senate Bill 330, a newly enacted California law to expedite residential permitting and construction in response to the statewide housing availability and affordability crisis,” said Lance Waite, Principal of Integral Communities, the developer of North River Farms. “SB 330 had bipartisan support and was passed by over 90 percent by the Assembly and nearly 90 percent by the Senate, a reflection of the widening housing crisis in California where middle and lower income households are often not able to afford a home near job centers and are forced to either rent or buy a home in distant locations. This includes essential and frontline workers, like firefighters and nurses, who we depend on to protect us especially in times of crisis like the one we are now facing with COVID-19. North River Farms will go a long way in helping those we rely on to afford a new home in a location close to employment centers and urban conveniences.”
SB 330, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, addresses the statewide housing shortage and affordability crisis by seeking to boost supply, expedite housing production and prevent acts that could impede production of new homes. It prohibits local initiatives or referenda from establishing rules that would effectively impose restrictions on the development of housing where it is an allowable use.
Because of COVID-19, Americans are spending more time at home than ever before and according to the America at Home Study, conducted by housing experts in April, that has driven a heightened demand for single-family homeownership. Nearly 50 percent of respondents who are currently renting say they now want to become homeowners and 72 percent prefer a single-family home, making the demand for more housing construction even greater than before the pandemic.
Integral Communities has filed the lawsuit under SB 330, challenging the referendum. “With a statewide shortage of two million homes and an additional 180,000 new homes needed annually, SB 330 was enacted to preclude anti-growth measures like this referendum,” said Waite. “Like many California cities, Oceanside faces challenges with homelessness and housing supply shortages.”
“Our original plans for North River Farms called for nearly 1,000 homes, but over a three-year period, we listened to the community’s concerns, negotiated in good faith and made huge concessions, including reducing the total number of homes by nearly 50 percent,” said Waite. “The final plan, approved by the Oceanside City Council in November of 2019, now includes 585 homes with nearly 50 percent priced for middle-income households, and another 60 set aside as lower-income restricted homes, along with many accessory dwelling units that help address housing affordability and shortages.”
North River Farms recently won the Grand Award for “Best on the Boards Site Plan” from the Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC). Integral Communities is known for its thoughtful community designs, which honor the character of the surrounding community and celebrate the legacy of the land. North River Farms preserves 40 percent of the land for open space and agriculture, including 68 acres of farmed land that will produce enough food to feed 1,000 families, an educational center to teach children about the earth and sustainability, and a farmer’s market. The community will also include a permanent fire station, retail, and neighbor-serving commercial uses. Along with providing homes for first responders, essential workers, teachers, current renters, and others, North River Farms includes expanded bridges to mitigate traffic, improved local parks, and millions in funding for area schools, which currently are suffering from falling student enrollment.
Prior to the zone change approved by the City of Oceanside, the 200+-acre zoning allowed for 2.5-acre estate lots, with all 61 homes priced well above $1.5 million. The referendum brought by residents adjacent to the site calls for a downzoning and a return to this original, affluent estate housing plan, which would preclude the vast majority of Californians from affording the homes. This zoning would also forgo needed infrastructure improvements, a new fire station and millions of dollars for local schools. In addition, none of the land would be required to be set aside for agriculture in perpetuity.
The median price for a home in California exceeds $600,000, more than twice the national level, while the state has the highest share of households spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. This disparity has specific and tangible social consequences including increased poverty and homelessness that impact working families the hardest. Providing accessibly priced housing close to job centers helps alleviate a multitude of social issues, including disruption of family life and health issues tied to excessive commute times, air quality deterioration, and discrimination against low-income and minority households.
“California is in a deep and unprecedented housing crisis fueled by a shortage of new homes at every attainable price level, and measures like this referendum further deepen the crisis,” said Waite. “Those who already own homes in Oceanside are very lucky and we hope they would empathize with other area families who are left out of the American dream of homeownership because of the severe shortage and exorbitant cost of housing in California. We advocate for housing and give a voice to those who hope to someday have a home of their own.”
“Communities that do not add new homes, residents and jobs see a deteriorating housing supply, falling school enrollment, and a subsequent degradation in their local economies,” said Waite. “Communities like North River Farms not only help ease California’s severe housing crisis, they also raise the quality of life for residents and provide benefits to the community at large with an increased tax base, job production, open space for recreating, and essential services.”
About Integral Communities
Integral Communities is a privately held diversified real estate development company led by veteran principals with long distinguished backgrounds in the real estate business going back more than 50 years. With a focus on innovative strategy, creative design, and proven expertise, Integral works for the betterment of communities in which they work by creating new opportunities from underutilized or undeveloped parcels of land through value-added planning. They have successfully re-entitled, re-positioned, and value engineered a wide and varied array of large-scale development projects. The company’s portfolio includes a myriad of apartment communities, mixed-use developments, and master-planned communities throughout California. Integral is headquartered in Newport Beach, California, with regional offices in Encinitas and Danville, California. www.integralcommunities.com