Wednesday, January 4, 2006
Steamboat Springs planning commissioners will have a special meeting tonight to discuss affordable housing.
The commission will review the proposed citywide inclusionary zoning ordinance. Inclusionary zoning is a tool to provide affordable housing; it requires developers to provide a specific percentage of affordable housing units within residential developments.
The City Council was set to conduct a first reading of the ordinance Dec. 6, but members tabled the reading because planning commissioners and officials from the Yampa Valley Housing Authority did not have sufficient time to review it.
Since then, officials have had the chance to read two related documents: the proposed ordinance and a set of guidelines for community housing. According to both documents, the purpose of the ordinance is to increase the supply of affordable housing with priority to households with at least one person working in Steamboat Springs.
A lack of affordable housing can lead to problems, according to a city staff report. Those include high housing costs, difficulty attracting and keeping employees, traffic from commuters and overcrowded living conditions.
The proposed ordinance would apply to developments with residential units citywide. It would exclude dwelling units constructed by a school, hospital, local government or similar public institution built for employees, patients, students or others.
If approved, the ordinance would require that 15 percent of new residential developments' units are affordable.
"Affordable" units are defined by the amount spent by a household on rent or mortgage payments; that amount, according to the ordinance, should not exceed 30 percent of the household's combined income.
Affordable units would be deed restricted and would be sold or rented to households whose incomes are at or below 120 percent of Routt County's annual median income. The annual median income for a family of four is $72,700.
To qualify for affordable housing units, residents have to earn 80 percent of their income within Routt County, with the exception of retired people.
The ordinance contains requirements detailing what the affordable housing units should be like. The city emphasizes that they should be on the same site as the rest of the development; if they are not, the developer must meet certain conditions, such as building at least 25 percent more units than is required on site.
The units also must meet standards of size and quality. And the units should meet a certain timeline for construction in coordination to the timeline for the rest of the development.
Developers would be able to opt out of providing affordable housing units; instead they would have to pay a fee or dedicate lots to the city.
City planning staff is recommending that planning commissioners discuss six variables. Those include: the minimum project size that meets an affordable housing regulation, the extent of the required or alternative contribution to affordable housing, definitions of what "affordable housing" means, how in-lieu contributions should be handled, how long the units should be affordable and incentives for developers.
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