Saturday, January 16, 2016

Planning Commission hearing on Inclusionary Zoning.

This is an eight-hour meeting. I don't think anyone wants to watch the full meeting. The discussion of the inclusionary zoning starts at time-stamp 36:40 and ends at 3:45:20. To summarize the comments, developers don't like it because it goes too far and advocates of affordable housing don't like because it does not go far enough. No one speaks in favor of the proposal. For access to the Planning Commission agenda and staff reports, follow this link. To see the Planning Commission staff report on the proposed inculusionary zoning text see page 5 through page 41.

At time stamp 42:50 the staff begins the explanation of the incusionary zoning  proposal and completes this explanation at 1:02:30. One thing interesting in this proposal is that the set aside affordable units must be similar in size and number of bedrooms to the non set-aside units. So if the units in a condo sale for $500,000 dollars and the bedrooms are very spacious, the units set aside as "affordable" must also be at least 80% as spacious. I have a question: If the non-set-aside units include concierge service, a gym, a spa, a pool, dog-walking service and fresh cut flowers every day, do the set-aside units also get these services and amenities?  If there is a hefty condo fee for the non-set aside units, do the set-aside units have to pay the same fee? Is that monthly condo fee included in calculating affordability?  I don't know.

Following the staff explanation, the chairman ask for those who wish to speak in favor of the proposal to come forward. No one does. No one supports the proposal. Opponents are then permitted to speak. Proponents of affordable housing express displeasure saying they want a mandatory program. I am surprised that more people did not speak. NOAH and VOICE representatives spoke but no mainstream housing advocates spoke. No one speaks in opposition from a pro-free-market position. The only developer who speaks is former Metro Councilman Roy Dale.

Following the pubic hearing, the members of the Commission discuss the proposal. There is some interesting discussion. One thing is very clear; without a large Metro subsidy this proposal will simply not work. Those unit build to be affordable for someone at 100% of area median income (AMI) would require more subsidy than those built to be affordable for someone at 80% AMI and so on. Also, this proposal would not address the very low income or the needs of the homeless. This proposal does not and cannot impose rent control, due to state legislation that prevents a city from imposing rent control. This proposal would not incentivize affordable housing in areas that already have adequate affordable housing. To get developers to seek the density or height bonuses proposed in this plan, it takes away established bonuses. This proposal is a "voluntary" inclusionary program but designed to force a developer to seek the bonuses (see time stamp 3:02:00). This is a very complex proposal and while I have a general understanding of what is proposed, I do not fully understand all of the details of the setback, parking, and height bonuses of the proposal. It would take some study to digest all of what is proposed. The proposal does nothing to preserve existing affordable housing stock nor to encourage greater housing density throughout the county. The commission votes unanimously to recommend that the Metro Council disapprove the proposed voluntary inclusionary zoning policy.

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