Having enough housing — including affordable housing — is the main topic of conversation and planning in our county. Rebuilding momentum has increased after the wildfires, however, having an adequate number of homes in Sonoma County has been a concern for several years. To close this gap, it will take a coordinated response involving many stakeholders working to achieve a common goal.

Existing organizations are also stepping up efforts to close the housing shortage, ease regulatory processes, and find funding sources.

Internally, the SCA Housing Task Force (HTF) convenes business leaders to engage in advocacy and develop recommendations to help remove obstacles impeding the construction of different housing types in the county, while also working to activate and educate members on vital projects. HTF partners with key community groups to promote solution-oriented models to remove barriers and accelerate development, such as Homes for Sonoma.

Externally, the Alliance’s CEO/executive director maintains ongoing contacts with several business associations addressing housing. They include: the North Coast Builder’s Exchange (NCBE), Engineering Contractor’s Association, North Bay Leadership Council, Sonoma County Farm Bureau, NORBAR (North Bay Association of Realtors), Associated General Contractors (the state’s largest construction trade association), Santa Rosa Metro Chamber of Commerce Advocacy Council as well as the Rebuild Sonoma County Working Group, to mention a few.

New entities are being formed to zero-in on specific aspects of the housing short fall. Last October, NCBE and the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber formed the Employer’s Housing Council (EHC) with the primary goal of getting the nine cities and Sonoma County to accelerate market rate, workforce and affordable housing. This organization includes Medtronic, Kaiser, Keysight Technologies, St. Joseph Health, Sutter Health, Exchange Bank, Redwood Credit Union, etc., and representatives from SRJC, SSU, and Sonoma County City Schools. EHC’s objective is based on the need to provide worker housing, retain employees, provide dwellings for additional personnel, as well as to attract businesses to locate in Sonoma County.

Habitat for Humanity has made a commitment to build 600 homes in five to eight years. It is also looking for warehouse space in Sonoma County to manufacture 70 pre-fab homes per year. In partnership with City Ventures, Habitat is building 10 units in Southwest Santa Rosa and is updating this project to include an ADU with each unit.

Burbank Housing has built 34 new affordable homes in Napa (Redwood Grove) and is planning to build 60 homes in Southwest Santa Rosa. Burbank announced in January that it purchased the 56-unit Parkwood Apartments in Rincon Valley that will remain affordable for the next 55 years.

The CASA Compact’s 10-point Bay Area regional plan, described by Supervisor David Rabbitt at the Alliance’s February 6 general membership meeting, is another mechanism contributing to the dialogue on how best to build and rebuild.

I believe this is an opportunity for SCA leaders and members alike to become engaged by volunteering to represent the Alliance at meetings of these organizations, as well as take committee or board seats, serve in a liaison capacity and report back to SCA members on progress being made. Networking is what makes us strong. I encourage all SCA members to stay informed, weigh in by offering to serve as liaison and become part of the solution.  Should you wish to volunteer, please call Brian Ling or myself to talk about the role you can play. Together we can be successful.

Eric Goldschlag, President