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Seniors big focus of city's housing plan

The challenge for Laguna Beach is to build affordability and elder care into the upscale coastal city.

March 14, 2013|By Bryce Alderton

As Laguna Beach officials move forward in updating the city's housing plan, there is one key group they must consider: seniors, who represent a third of the beach community's residents.

"We have people who have lived [in Laguna] for 20, 30, 40 years, who have made the town the way it is," said Chris Quilter, board member for Laguna Beach Seniors, a nonprofit that promotes wellness and independence for the local seniors. "Many have to leave town once they get old" because they can no longer afford their homes and the city has no assisted-living facilities.

The population is aging. Of the city's 22,723 residents, 8,453 are 55 or older, according to 2010 U.S. Census data. Laguna Beach considers anyone age 65 or older a "senior," principal planner Carolyn Martin wrote in an email.

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City officials are beginning to update Laguna Beach's housing document, which outlines priorities that affect renters and owners, per state law.

The current housing document covers 2006 to 2014 and complies with state law, said Eric Johnson, spokesman for the California Department of Housing and Community Development.  

The law requires cities to adequately plan to meet existing and future housing needs, including affordable housing.  

The next document will cover 2013 to 2021.

Housing goals include maintaining existing housing stock, addressing special-needs groups and removing constraints to housing development, where feasible.

Martin presented an overview March 6 of the city's housing status during a joint meeting with Planning Commission and Housing and Human Services Committee members.

In the coming months, Laguna Beach officials will seek public input and discuss possible changes to the housing plan at a Planning Commission meeting in late April or early May. The document is available on the city's website at http://www.lagunabeachcity.net.

Data from the city's housing plan shows that Laguna has 13,522 housing units. Of those, 164 are reserved for low- or moderate-income households, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

Laguna Beach has 85 apartments restricted to low-income seniors (those whose income is 50% to 80% of the county's median income), according to Martin.

City officials are doing what they can and have garnered recognition from the state for their housing plan, but challenges remain.

The median single-family home price in Laguna Beach was $1.5 million in 2007 while the county's average was $660,000, according to DataQuick.

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