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City Council Adopts Revised Housing Element
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Escalon's housing element has been adopted by a 5-0 vote of the city council and the document is on its way to the state's Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for final approval.

Adoption came following a public hearing at the March 1 council meeting, said interim City Manager Henry Hesling.

"It's one of those elements you have to have," Hesling explained. "If you don't have a certified housing element, if you don't have that in place and you go for grants, they can deny you."

The housing element update, officials added, is an amendment to the city's general plan. Among other areas, it reviews the city's population, housing and employment characteristics and housing development during the past housing element cycle.

Beth Thompson, Principal of the De Novo Planning Group that worked with the city on updating the housing element, explained what was considered when updating the element.

"The document inventories available resources, including financial resources, the City's available land inventory for residential development, and programs available for housing assistance," she wrote in her report to the council.

Thompson was among the staff from the planning group that made a few visits to the city over the last several months, hosting informational workshops on the housing element and outlining the proposal.

Existing constraints to housing development and affordability, Thompson added in her report, were also discussed.

"The housing element includes a seven-year implementation plan with goals, policies, and programs developed to meet the housing needs of the city as identified by public outreach as well as our research," she wrote.

State law requires that every city has a legally compliant General Plan Housing Element. Thompson's report to the council included some minor revisions in the element, as recommended by the city's Planning Commission, following review and public comment taken in hearings, as well as recommendations made by the HCD when the housing element update was reviewed at that level initially.

"It's been in the pipeline for quite a while," Hesling said of the housing element update. "The Planning Commission has approved it, the council has accepted it, now it will go back up to HCD and HCD has to sign off on it."

The extensive process began with a public hearing in late May of last year at the planning commission level, while the city council reviewed the draft housing element for the first time on June 15, 2009.

Once the council approved the draft and it was sent off to HCD, officials had to wait to hear back from the state. A letter received in January indicated that, with revisions recommended by HCD, the housing element would address "the statutory requirements" for a housing element.

The housing element, Thompson wrote, is "considered to be the primary policy document for a community to guide the development, rehabilitation and preservation of its housing for all economic segments of the local population."