This column was contributed by Kollin Kosmicki, who is running for San Benito County Supervisor District 2. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
If elected as District 2 supervisor, I will propose monumental changes to San Benito County’s housing laws that include the following:
- Enact a cap on single-family, market-rate housing growth at 1% annually in unincorporated San Benito County.
- Eliminate the option for developers (excluding very small subdivisions) to pay “In Lieu of” fees as an alternative to construction of affordable housing in their developments.
- Exempt affordable and multifamily housing categories from the 1% cap.
The county should enact these changes at least until the completion of planned expansions to Highways 156 and 25. Until then, our county’s road system as a whole will remain unequipped to handle current traffic congestion, let alone major increases.
As for further reasoning behind each of these historic proposals:
Growth cap: The 1 % limit for growth of market-rate, single-family homes is fair and restrictive all at once. It allows for the county to contribute a reasonable share of new homes toward the imbalanced supply of local and statewide housing. But at the same time, it prevents prospects for endless subdivision approvals and the types of mega-developments that draw the ire of local citizens, cause significant havoc to the roads and chip away at this community’s cultural bedrock. The cap under my plan would exempt affordable and multifamily housing categories.
Tighten affordable requirement: We as a county have failed to adequately address the housing affordability crisis and must do more. My proposal would largely eliminate the option for developers to pay special “In-Lieu-Of” fees instead of actually developing this much-needed “inclusionary” housing. If you’re unfamiliar with this “In-Lieu-Of” fees system, San Benito County allows developers to forego legal requirements to build affordable housing in their subdivisions if they pay these fees.
It’s a bad system that amounts to legal bribery and does nothing to help address housing inequality in our community. Under my plan, the county would require developers to actually build affordable units in most cases. Very small subdivisions—such as lots with a handful of homes or fewer—could continue paying the fees due to inherent scale challenges toward meeting the inclusionary requirement.
As I’ve consistently stated in this campaign, it’s unacceptable to turn our backs on the countless local residents crammed into inhumane conditions, seniors who shouldn’t have to face anxiety over shelter in their golden years, or farmworkers who provide food for our tables.
The county’s current 15% pseudo-requirement should become a hard mandate. I will support a hard cap if elected and would like to see consideration to increase that number. Currently, developers typically buy their way out of having to build inclusionary units by opting for the in-lieu fees.
All in all when it comes to growth, locally elected officials at the municipal and county levels should listen to a resounding majority of constituents who have spoken up on the matter.
As a community, we need to stop letting developers treat us like pushovers and start leveraging this beautiful area’s assets.
Our leaders also should stop buying into the false logic that this county’s population must grow at lightning speed in order to chase a healthy economy.
The truth is, yes, some carefully considered, incremental residential growth is necessary in order to draw desirable businesses to the area—preferably those that fit in line with this area’s culture—and some additional housing will be necessary to provide homes for new employees.
But in this community at this time, people generally want slower growth and for good reasons: There simply isn’t adequate infrastructure in place to handle unchecked growth.