Paso Robles needs rental housing — here’s how the city is trying to save existing apartments

Paso Robles is suffering from an extreme lack of rental housing — now, the city is taking steps to temporarily make sure apartments and other multifamily housing units are not converted for other uses.

City Council members on Oct. 29 voted 4-0 to approve an urgency ordinance that places a 45-day moratorium on land-use applications and building and demolition permits that would convert complexes of five or more rental housing units to nonresidential uses.

Councilman Fred Strong did not vote, as he was absent from the meeting.

There are about 70 complexes that are impacted by the ordinance, according to a city staff report.

Paso Robles is about to begin the process of updating its 2020-28 Housing Element, the planning document that lays out the city’s residential development policies.

Paso Robles has a rental housing vacancy rate of 1.9%, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

A map shows the locations of the 70 multifamily complexes in Paso Robles with at least five units that are affected by a 45-day moratorium on converting housing for other uses. City of Paso Robles

The state will require the city to provide enough land to build 1,446 new housing units as part of California’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process. A large chunk of the required housing — 840 units — must be affordable.

City Manager Tom Frutchey told The Tribune that getting new housing built in Paso Robles has been a struggle since the Great Recession.

“Given how difficult it’s been to build housing, we certainly don’t want to lose housing,” he said.

The urgency ordinance is meant to prevent the city from losing existing multifamily housing that property owners could shift to other uses, such as the Grand View Apartments complex, which will soon be vacant and is currently up for sale.

“Any loss of affordable and workforce housing will displace workers, which will impact the local economy,” the city staff report reads. “There is currently a shortage of workers in the manufacturing, lodging, hospitality, food service and wine/agriculture sectors. The lack of available workers has been a top issue for local business as revealed in a recent business surveys and outreach processes.”

Tenants living at Grand View sued their landlords due to the uninhabitable conditions they’ve been living with for years, including vermin infestations, mold and plumbing problems.

The complex is now going out of business, leaving hundreds of tenants without places to live.

John Fowler, Peoples’ Self-Help Housing CEO, mentioned the complex’s residents during his public comments at the City Council meeting.

“We have 46 families desperately looking for housing right now,” Fowler said. “That is going to be a big challenge for us. For us to find those units in the next 45 days ... it would really be the council’s need to keep all units status quo and let us have those units available to try and place those families.”

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Lindsey Holden writes about housing, North County communities and everything in between for The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. She became a staff writer in 2016 after working for the Rockford Register Star in Illinois. Lindsey is a native Californian raised in the Midwest and earned degrees from DePaul and Northwestern universities.