Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Changes to city's housing policies approved


After numerous meetings and plenty of tinkering, Santa Barbara city leaders approved changes to the city’s housing policies yesterday that will require smaller developments to include affordable units or pay a fee.
New developments or condominium conversion projects between two and nine units will be subject to the city’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance once the changes are officially adopted next week.

City officials said smaller projects are likely to opt for the in-lieu fee, creating a fund that will be used to subsidize affordable housing, purchase affordable units in default and pay administrative costs.
“We would actually have a good deal of money in the bank if we had enacted it a few years ago,” Councilmember Das Williams said.
The City Council approved the new policy on a 6-1 vote, with Councilmember Dale Francisco voting against the ordinance. He said he expects the changes will result in many unintended consequences.
“I’m not very excited about in-lieu fees and I’m very concerned about the impact on mom and pop developers,” he said. “…It’s an unfair burden on the people who are building … but I guess it will allow some people to say we’re doing something about affordable housing.”
Adopted in 2004, the city’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance requires projects of 10 or more units to provide at least 15 percent of those units at a cost affordable to middle-income buyers — or pay an in-lieu fee of $354,000 for each required inclusionary unit.
Under the alterations, the ordinance will require projects with two to nine units to provide 5 percent as affordable or pay a prorated fee of $17,700 per market-rate unit.
Councilmember Helene Schneider said the changes are one tool that will help the city’s housing crisis while closing a loophole in the city’s inclusionary housing policies.
“I don’t think the sky is going to fall if we approve this today,” she said, adding that the legislation can always be tweaked later if further changes need to be made.
She also praised several other aspects of the new ordinance, such as an exemption for projects that provide at least 30 percent of their units at levels affordable to upper-middle income buyers or below.
The ordinance also exempts one unit from being counted for in-lieu fees for new housing projects between two and four units.
Although she voted for the changes, Councilmember Iya Falcone said she remains concerned about charging in-lieu fees, adding that she would prefer to address the issue through the Plan Santa Barbara process, a widespread retooling of the city’s guiding principles.
“This whole thing gives me the heebie-jeebies,” she said.
However, she explained that should a unit affordable to middle and upper-middle incomes go into default, the city currently has no other way to buy back the unit than with the proposed in-lieu fees.
“If we did not have a pot of money … then we would lose that affordable unit to the free market,” she said.
Councilmember Roger Horton, while acknowledging there may be a need to tweak the ordinance to deal with any pitfalls that emerge, said the benefits for the city’s workforce outweigh any potential problems.
“I’m sure willing to give it a try,” he said.
Steven Faulstich, the city’s housing programs supervisor, said the changes would apply to all projects currently in the pipeline that have yet to receive approval from the Planning Commission.


Anonymous said...

When is this city going to start to look for a solution for working middle class Santa Barbarians that can't afford to spend $750,000 on a 60's built tract home in Goleta?

Anonymous said...

Inclusionary Housing Ordinance means those who can't afford a home are entitled to one, right? Include poor people and make those who are killing themselves trying to make a living should pay. The same socialist thinking that crashed our economy. What a Communist State. Soon nobody will be able provide housing..

Anonymous said...

Developers win again.

Don't use pre-existing housing, that would be to smart. Give City staff and developers something to do.