PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles City Council passed an emergency moratorium at its meeting on Oct. 29, prohibiting properties that have multi-residential units from being converted into nonresidential uses. The temporary stopgap, according to City staff, allows the City time to complete its housing element update without losing crucial housing stock. 

First produced in October of 2014, the housing element is a portion of the City’s general plan analyzing housing needs for all income groups and sets policy to target housing needs. The housing element can be viewed on the City’s website at prcity.com/260/Housing-Element. 

According to California Government Code, Section 65858, an emergency moratorium lasts for a maximum of 45 days in which time a vote must be held to extend the freeze. A second extension would last 10 months and 15 days and would allow City staff time to finish the HEU.

The update coincides with changes to California housing mandates put in place to battle the housing shortage the state faces, according to City staff. Laws and standards continue to be passed down by the state on how to address the lack of residential units with an emphasis on affordability. 

City Community Development Director Warren Frace said Paso’s housing responsibility set by California is 1,446 houses with 840 those designed for low-income households and this does not include additional housing mandates that Frace said are expected to come.

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“Two-thirds of those units we’re planning for will have to be affordable units, so I think it’s clear to everyone that is going to be a very high hurdle for the City to meet,” Frace said.

In his presentation, Frace explained that it would be prudent to impose a temporary moratorium to stave off any loss of precious housing already built. 

“As we’re going through the process of planning for these additional units, we also want to make sure that we’re not losing any of our existing housing stock,” Frace said. “And basically that’s the  purpose of the moratorium is to prevent any existing large apartment type complex and multifamily projects from being converted to a nonresidential use that would create yet another need to replace.”

Executive Director of the Paso Robles Housing Authority David Cook gave his support for the temporary moratorium. Being in the affordable housing business for the past 25 years, Cook stated that he has watched the housing problem grow worse over the years. Cook said one of his housing projects with 300 units already has 400 people on its waiting list.

“We turn down people every day and they don’t know where to go,” Cook said.

President and CEO of Self-Help Housing John Fowler also encouraged the Council to pass the emergency hold.

“We know there is a need and we know that we can’t lose any more housing units,” Fowler said. “We are about to enter into a new housing element, so it’s important to retain where we’re at until that process gets done.”

An emergency moratorium requires a four-fifths majority vote and with the absence of Councilmember Fred Strong it had to pass with all present voting in the affirmative.