Workforce Housing Program
The County of Sonoma's Workforce Housing Program is one of the tools the County has to encourage the development of affordable housing.
The purpose of the Workforce Housing Program is to require non-residential developers to participate in the County’s affordable housing program. Options for participation include construction of workforce housing on-site or at another location, payment of a workforce housing fee, or alternative equivalent actions such as dedication of land or the provision of an employer-sponsored mortgage assistance program. The Workforce Housing Program implements policy HE-4d of the County’s adopted General Plan Housing Element.
The Workforce Housing Program requirements are derived from a nexus study which analyzed the average number and income level of employees for various types of land uses. The study estimated the need for affordable housing created by new development and the public subsidy that would be required to meet that need. The study recommended that affordable unit requirements and a workforce housing fee be established for non-residential development to cover 10 percent of the demand created by the development or the cost to subsidize housing to meet that demand elsewhere.
Because the recommended fee would be a one-time expense that would be financed over the life of the project, the nexus study estimated that the fee would have a minor effect on a tenant’s monthly rents—amounting to only approximately $0.02-$0.03 additional cost per square foot.
The Workforce Housing Program applies to all new non-residential development, including commercial, offices, retail, agricultural processing, and industrial land uses, unless exempt.
- Projects with a demonstrated vested right to proceed;
- Public and non-profit projects with a public benefit;
- Small projects (additions or portions of new development up to 2,000 square feet of floor area);
- The first 2,000 square feet of all new developments;
- Repair, reconstruction, or replacement of a structure destroyed by fire or natural catastrophe;
- Nonresidential replacements or remodels that do not result in the creation of additional floor area; and
- Projects that clearly do not contribute to the demand for affordable housing (i.e., unmanned utility structures, parking garages, and agricultural exempt structures).
The applicant selects the method of participation in the County’s Workforce Housing Program and submits the selected option with their first application for permits or approvals for the project. Affordable units would be constructed concurrent with development or fees would be paid at the time of building permit issuance for the non-residential development.