Berkeley City Council plans sixth cycle of Housing Element Update

photo of a zoom meeting
Lauren Cho/Staff
Berkeley’s sixth cycle of the Berkeley Housing Element allocated nearly 9,000 units to alleviate the rising costs of rent. Mayor Jesse Arreguín encouraged increased public participation while the city develops policies to build the units in observance of existing construction constraints.

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The Berkeley City Council discussed plans for the sixth cycle of the state-mandated Berkeley Housing Update and encouraged community input on city housing during a citywide public workshop held Oct. 27.

The Berkeley Housing Element Update will serve as an eight-year housing plan for Berkeley starting 2023. The document will provide a clear assessment of housing needs and identify policy priorities while focusing closely on racial and social equity and protections for vulnerable communities for the next cycle.

According to Mayor Jesse Arreguín, affordable housing in Berkeley is becoming increasingly more difficult to find. He hopes that by launching the housing element process early, the city will be able to have increased public participation when developing housing policies and considering land use strategies.

“California is experiencing a housing crisis, and we know that living in Berkeley, rents are skyrocketing,”Arreguín said at the workshop. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult for many of us, including our kids to be able to live in the city that they grew up in.”

According to city planner Grace Wu, the state forecasts regional housing needs and targets through the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, or RHNA. For the upcoming element, Wu said Berkeley has a RHNA of approximately 9,000 units of housing it is planning for.

Ron Whitmore of Raimi and Associates, a local planning firm leading the consultant team for the Housing Element Update, presented the plan for the city’s sixth cycle.

The Housing Element is planning to identify adequate sites to accommodate nearly 9,000 units of housing. Another main component is a strategy-focused element including goals, policies and actions the city will undertake during housing production, while observing ways to reserve existing housing and address constraints on housing construction, Whitmore stated.

“It’s also a city priority that the project be guided by robust community outreach and engagement,” Whitmore said at the workshop. “The consultant team is working closely with the city to implement an approach tailored for the unique characteristics of communities in Berkeley.”

During public comment, Berkeley residents expressed their opinions on the city’s housing strengths, while also voicing their concerns regarding senior housing and segregation on income and race during the housing process.

ASUC Housing Commission Chair Brandon Yung, who previously served as a reporter for The Daily Californian, presented ideas for a shared living model when considering the city’s upcoming housing element, particularly concerning students in the city.

“Addressing our housing affordability crisis is not only a part of the mind, but a priority of our entire city,” Arreguín said at the workshop. “Berkeley has a responsibility to provide a fair share of our housing and address the housing needs of those that are already here with a particular focus on affordable housing.”

Contact Lauren Cho at [email protected].