Permanent Room Housing

The “Permanent Room Housing” (PRH) project involved creating a new combining (overlay) zone district to recognize and legalize the conversion of motels and care facilities to permanent housing. This policy project implemented Program 4.5 of the 2015 Housing Element (“Explore regulatory options for recognizing and legalizing hotels/motels that have over time been converted to permanent occupancy”).

Project Purpose: The purpose of the district is to preserve safe housing that is affordable by design and often occupied by low- and moderate-income residents who live or work in Santa Cruz County. Some buildings originally constructed as motels or care facilities have become obsolete for their original intent. These properties can serve an important role in addressing the housing crisis by repurposing rooms and cabins as permanent housing units that are affordable by design due to their small unit size. In fact, there are properties throughout the County where this conversion has already taken place. However, residential use in former motels or care facilities without appropriate zoning is illegal, and property owners cannot obtain permits from the County to renovate illegal units. Without legal property renovations and upgrades over time, these units become run-down and may pose a safety risk to residents and the surrounding community. The PRH Combining Zone District creates a legal pathway for permanent housing on these properties.

Project Status: The PRH Combining Zone District was approved in 2020 with County Ordinance 5305 and is in effect (see County Code sections 13.10.424 – 429). Individual project applicants may apply to join the zone district. As of December 2020, eight properties (totaling 66 units) have been approved to join the district. The first batch of PRH property applications will be considered on July 22, 2020 by the Planning Commission.