Opening the door to progress on housing

The region’s #1 drag on economic growth — housing — is getting renewed focus, with new collaborations cracking open fresh approaches to a persistent challenge.


+ SLO County and its seven cities are reviving development of a joint Housing and Infrastructure Plan to be adopted this fall.

+ New conversations among cities, builders and Space Force officials have sprung up around how to accommodate growth at Vandenberg SFB.

+ The Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce is pushing for 10,000 new housing units by 2030, with proposed actions laid out in a new roadmap.

With cities, business leaders, home builders, and even the military coming together in new ways, these efforts can move the needle on housing the region’s workforce and chart a new trajectory for the Central Coast.

Here’s an overview of this new momentum.


In a nutshell

The central thrust of these efforts is unlocking job growth by increasing the stock of housing affordable to the workforce. That’s teachers, nurses, firefighters and service members but also the tech workers, sales reps, engineers and fabricators our businesses need to expand.

There is widespread agreement among both economic experts and local business leaders that the housing crunch is the leading factor holding back business growth and job creation in the region. Businesses simply cannot attract and retain workers to fill jobs.


“You build housing, your economy will expand.”
Chris Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon Economics, at the Central Coast Economic Forecast


It’s not just the economy — it’s quality of life

The impact takes a toll not just on business conditions but day-to-day life on the Central Coast.

+ It can take longer to get doctor appointments, home repairs, or a host of other essential services.

+ Restaurants are forced to cut their hours or even shut down, while studios, salons and gyms cut back on classes and appointments.

+ Local governments lose out on added revenue to fund things like parks, pothole repairs and storm preparedness and response.

+ And most tragically, our friends, neighbors and kids are forced to look elsewhere for job opportunities and affordable housing.


“Twenty years ago, we thought there was a tradeoff between growth and quality of life. Now, there’s a widespread recognition that no, those two go hand in hand.”
Matthew Fienup, executive director of Cal Lutheran’s Center for Economic Research and Forecasting


Housing is HIP

Regional Housing and Infrastructure Plan logoSLO County has jumped in with both feet, looking to have a comprehensive Housing and Infrastructure Plan in place by fall.

The goal is a systematic, shared framework for accelerating housing production across SLO County communities.

To get there, the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments and REACH are gathering data and engaging a wide range of stakeholders — from elected officials, city managers and planning/community development staff to builders, developers and housing advocacy groups — to build support and collaboration across sectors.


“This revives important work started under the 2020 regional housing compact to create close public-private alignment around a shared vision and frame up how we rise to regional housing challenges long into the future. A regional mindset, collaboration and data-oriented accountability are key to a successful effort.”
Russ Levanway, executive vice president of REACH


Read the 2020 Compact + news about its passage.

Already underway in the revived effort are activities to:

  • map regional infrastructure barriers to housing — namely roads, water and wastewater service
  • define the most efficient areas for growth
  • prioritize infrastructure needs to unlock the most benefit
  • explore “affordable by design” principles, policies and programs
  • identify funding strategies

The SLO County Housing Summit, targeted for fall of 2023, will dive into progress and plans — details to come soon.

In the meantime, head to to learn more and keep up with progress.


News from REACH, Housing