Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a lawsuit today against the City of Elk Grove for “illegally denying a supportive housing project for lower-income households,” according to a press statement.
The lawsuit challenges the city’s denial of a proposed supportive housing project in the city’s Old Town Special Planning Area (OTSPA).
“Our state is in a housing crisis and local governments must do their part to allow for affordable housing options for all members of our communities, regardless of their income level,” the Attorney General said. “Everyone deserves to have a place to call home. California has critically important laws designed to combat housing discrimination and increase affordable housing opportunities. Today’s lawsuit against Elk Grove sends a strong message to local governments: if you violate fair housing laws, we will hold you to account.”
The lawsuit alleges the city’s denial of the project violates state laws including Senate Bill 35 (SB 35), the Housing Accountability Act (HAA), and fair housing laws intended to prohibit discriminatory land use practices, including the Nondiscrimination in Land Use Law and the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing statute (AFFH).
The proposed project, known as the Oak Rose Apartments, would add 66 units of supportive housing for lower-income households at risk of homelessness, in a jurisdiction in dire need of low-income housing opportunities.
Governor Gavin Newsom said communities that fail to build their fair share of housing, including those refusing to develop desperately needed affordable housing, will be held to account.
“When local governments repeatedly fail to uphold their obligations and blatantly look for ways to skirt state law, we will use every tool available, including legal actions to ensure that Californians have access to needed housing,” Newsom said.
California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) Director Gustavo Velasquez said building more affordable housing is the most effective tool to reduce and prevent homelessness.
“The City of Elk Grove is blatantly evading fair housing laws and working against solving our housing and homelessness crisis,” Velasquez said.
Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen said in a statement, that the City of Elk Grove is not a bad actor.
“Elk Grove has a strong track record for supporting affordable housing projects and continues to engage in good faith discussions with the Oak Rose Apartments applicant in hopes of reaching a mutually agreeable solution,” Singh-Allen said.
The mayor said Elk Grove welcomes and invites further dialogue with the Attorney General’s Office in hopes of reaching a resolution that is beneficial to all impacted parties, particularly the City’s low-income households and persons experiencing homelessness.
In February 2022, the State Department of Housing and Community Development certified Elk Grove’s 2021-2029 Housing Element which identified more than 30 sites within the city that could assist with meeting Elk Grove’s share of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), according to a statement from Elk Grove.
The City has been actively encouraging developers to build projects that could fulfill the RHNA at these locations, the statement said. The site identified by the developer for the Oak Rose Project was not included as part of the RHNA designated sites.
“It is important to remember that the City did not disapprove of the Oak Rose Project itself,” Singh-Allen said. “Rather, the City found that the Project was not eligible for ministerial streamlined approval under Senate Bill 35 because the Project did not comply with all of the City’s objective development standards.”
Specifically, the Project did not comply with the City’s restriction of residential units on the ground floor in the City’s Old Town Special Planning Area. The other project referenced by the Attorney General underwent a different, and more traditional review process, under which the City retains greater approval discretion, the Mayor said.
More than 1,100 new affordable housing units, including permanent supportive housing units, are currently in some form of development in Elk Grove, according to the city.
In February, Elk Grove joined developers for the groundbreaking of Poppy Grove Apartments, a 387-unit affordable housing project.
Since January 2021, the City of Elk Grove has committed more than $13.4 million in loans for affordable housing projects. Just last week, the City issued a Request for Proposals for the development of 7.5 acres, over two sites, for additional affordable housing units and will commit $9 million in local funding towards the projects.
“Elk Grove is doing its part to support affordable housing in the region and remains open to working with the state, the developers of the Oak Rose project, and other developers to increase the housing supply and offer a full range of housing options for everyone,” Singh-Allen said.