BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The housing crisis in Kern continues as affordable housing shortages and rent increases impact Bakersfield residents.
But the City of Bakersfield is looking to help those struggling to with high costs.
Many Bakersfield residents said they cannot find affordable housing, and the homes they can afford do not have amenities like air conditioning, usable plumbing and working door and light fixtures.
City of Bakersfield staff said they recognize rising rent and home prices are impacting the Bakersfield housing stock and increasing homelessness within the community and presented its ‘Bakersfield Affordable Housing Strategy’ Tuesday night.
It highlights the city’s plan to increase housing development and improve affordability for Bakersfield residents.
“In the City of Bakersfield, over the last five years, rents are up by 43% and home prices are up by 72%,” said Chris Blakney with Senior Economic Advisor ECONorthwest.
Bakersfield city officials and partnering organizers, ECONorthwest, said less homes are being built and the homes that are cater to more high-income households.
“According to the 2020 annual progress report that the city has to send over to the state every year, there were about 200 units that were developed for low income, or very low income, in comparison to the 1,226 units for moderate income to above moderate income,” said Emma De La Rosa with Regional Policy Manager with Leadership Counsel.
Blakney said affordable housing is difficult to build. So, in partnership with the City of Bakersfield they developed a strategy that focuses on two things.
“The first was to create a toolkit so funding was allocated to develop programs and tools the city can use to unwind this issue of underproduction and make housing easier to build. The second piece was a strategy that guides decision making.”
The Bakersfield Affordable Housing Strategy will make it easier to dedicate financial resources needed to meet affordable housing needs, mitigate fees, provide homeowner flexibility, and identify vacant areas around Bakersfield that would be suitable for development.
“The city has already applied for and received a $3 million grant from the state of California to capitalize this fund.”
Emma De La Rosa said this plan focuses a lot on long term development and production, but says right now, city officials need to ensure existing housing is affordable.
“I think if we just focus on the production, we’re missing a whole side of this, and residents are currently facing the need right now to be housed.”
When asked about working to make current housing affordable, City of Bakersfield Principal Planner Jason Cater said he is focused on production.
“We are looking more on the rental side right now, to build more production, because we’ve seen the lack of development. But there are resources out there to help people that have utility issues, rental assistance needs.”
Cater also adds, city staff not only met with housing developers but also met with Bakersfield residents to discuss their ideas, concerns, potential challenges with fees, costs or lending, and potential development sites.
Cater said the process of developing those strategy will continue this year. The next step for this plan is to produce a draft strategy which will be released in May, it will then go to the city council for review.