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.

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.

Glen Campora, assistant deputy director for the California Department of Housing and Community Development, applauded Laguna Beach in a letter to City Manager John Pietig dated Jan. 2 for addressing special-needs housing.

Campora commended Laguna for approving the Glennwood House project, which involves converting an empty building that previously was a senior-assisted-living facility off South Coast Highway and Ruby Street into a house for 50 young adults youth with developmental disabilities. The Glennwood Housing Foundation Inc. is handling the conversion.

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Affordable housing

Laguna Beach has six affordable housing developments, according to the housing plan. It has also approved one low-income space in a four-unit artist live/work development in Laguna Canyon, and 10 additional residential units to help the city meet state-mandated affordable-housing requirements.

The city has 25 condominiums reserved for median income (80% to 120% of the county's median income). Very-low is 30% to 50% of the county's median income, while low income is 50% to 80% of the median income.