Water for Housing: Call for Inter-Agency Cooperation

MBEP’s Climate Change and Housing Initiatives are working in partnership with the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD) and other housing advocates such as Landwatch and United Way to request the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) work together to further align with the current housing priorities of the Governor. The housing crisis on the Monterey Peninsula is well documented, and has been compounded by the current health, climate and economic crises. MBEP’s member employers on the Peninsula are struggling to retain and recruit local talent due to an inadequate supply of affordable housing.

Published last April, MBEP’s Blue Paper on the intersections of water and housing on the Monterey Peninsula finds that the limited water supply issue on the Peninsula is just as much a legal and political issue as it is an environmental and economic one. The legal barriers presented by the Carmel River Cease and Desist Order 2016-0016 (CDO), particularly related to Condition 2, as well as a recommendation to lift water credit transferring prohibitions are reflected in the study amongst others recommendations that can strengthen the ability of the Monterey Peninsula to achieve its housing production goals, particularly with respect to housing that is affordable to lower-income households and the broader workforce.

As articulated in the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 (SB 330), removing impediments to housing production and prioritizing water supplies for affordable housing (Gov. Code, § 65589.7.) must be enacted to address the health and safety concerns posed by the state’s housing crisis which has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conditions outlined in Condition 2 of the CDO have impeded the development of affordable housing on the Monterey Peninsula. The MPWMD has submitted an application for relief from the CDO to adjust Condition 2 to help facilitate greater affordable housing development without compromising the water-related goals of the CDO.

Condition 2’s limitations on where water is used, meter size, and change of use restrict housing development beyond the CDO’s underlying intent of limiting increased water use. This challenges local jurisdictions’ ability to meet their Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) goals set by the state. It remains incumbent upon state agencies to work with local jurisdictions and water districts to find a more equitable and flexible way of addressing and distributing water allocations until the CDO is lifted and a more permanent sustainable supply is implemented.

The MPWMD seeks to gain the support of housing advocates to approach the SWRCB with letters of support for the District’s application for relief of the restrictions solely for use on near‐term housing projects which contain a moderate, low, or very low-income element. Please visit MBEP’s Action Center to take action and submit a letter to the SWRCB to request that they revisit the effects of the CDO with regards to Condition 2 and help bring water policies in line with state-mandated housing goals that will support several affordable housing projects and future ones on the Monterey Peninsula.