Post Independent opinion: Take a temporary timeout on rule for affordable housing
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
As the recession keeps its grip on the valley’s economy, Glenwood Springs City Council members have suggested it’s time to suspend the city’s affordable housing requirements.
The idea is to give residential housing developers an extra incentive to get construction projects going in the city, by allowing them to sell all of a project’s units at full market value.
We support the concept of a moratorium because it holds the potential for reviving construction employment and building materials sales in the community.
However, we urge the city to craft a moratorium with caution so it can be ended once the local housing market regains strength.
We don’t have to look back too far to remember why the ordinance was adopted. High housing prices put home buying out of reach for many middle class families. The essential workers who make the community function – police officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses and small business owners – had few options for housing in Glenwood Springs.
The recession has changed the picture. Now is a great time to buy, but it’s not yet good enough for builders to launch new projects.
So a timeout for the affordable housing ordinance could make it a bit easier for new home construction.
Under the existing ordinance, adopted in 2001, developers are required to place 15 percent of a project’s lots or units into the city’s affordable housing program. The units must be sold at below-market prices to buyers in certain income levels, and deed restrictions limit the annual increase for resale prices.
In the decade the ordinance has been in effect, new housing developments have yielded seven affordable housing units. Cardiff Glen, the city’s largest contributor of new housing, was approved prior to the ordinance and didn’t need to meet the 15 percent requirement.
Dropping the requirement would let builders sell new housing for whatever price the market can bear. The trick is extending the moratorium long enough to be effective but knowing when to cut it off.
We think a combination of economic indicators and a set period of time are needed. Building permit numbers, as well as the median home price in relation to median income, seem to be the logical indicators. Equally important would be placing a sunset clause in the moratorium after two years, so council would have to take positive action to extend it.
What we want to avoid is having to fight the affordable housing requirement battle all over again once the economy is going strong. The ordinance itself is a statement of community value, making it clear that the people who work in our community should be able to afford to live here as well. That is a value we should diligently preserve, moratorium or not.
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