Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Hailey law mandates affordable housing

Express Staff Writer

After months of discussion and numerous public hearings at both the City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission levels, the Hailey City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve a community housing ordinance requiring developers to include a certain percentage of affordable housing units in future developments.

The meeting at Hailey City Hall was attended by a large number of city residents who came to comment on the ordinance and many of its requirements.

With the passage of the "inclusionary zoning" ordinance, 20 percent of all new developments in Hailey with five or more units now must be affordable, deed-restricted housing. The ordinance requires these community housing units to be made available in perpetuity to households with incomes between 50 percent and 140 percent of the area median income, or AMI.

Passage of the inclusionary zoning ordinance means it will be in place before Hailey's moratorium on new subdivisions expires on Dec. 31. The moratorium was put in place primarily to give the city time to craft a community housing ordinance.

Like her fellow City Council members, Councilwoman Martha Burke indicated that the moratorium's pending expiration partially influenced her decision to approve the ordinance. That said, Burke did commend Hailey city staff on crafting a useful ordinance.

"This is really lovely work," Burke said.

Hailey now joins Sun Valley as the only communities in the Wood River Valley that have an ordinance on the books requiring developers to provide affordable housing units.

In most cases, the ordinance will require community housing units be provided on site and interspersed within the development. In cases where a certain fraction of a community housing unit is required, developers will have the alternative of paying an in-lieu fee to the city. Hailey will deposit all in-lieu fees into a community housing fund, which would be used to improve the city's supply of community housing units.

To make the ordinance's requirements more affordable and palatable for developers, a number of developer concessions are given. These include the deferment of water, sewer and building permit fees, as well as a 20 percent density increase.

In the case of a development with a total of 10 units, the 20 percent density increase would allow developers to build two additional regular market-rate units, bringing the number of homes in the development to 12.

The council had earlier discussed including a 30 percent density bonus, but in the end it decided that was too much and settled on the 20 percent.

Although he voted to approve the new ordinance, Councilman Richard Davis did express reservations with the ordinance's lack of flexibility. Davis said he would have liked to see the ordinance include additional alternatives or ways for developers to contribute to the city's need for community housing.

In the end, though, Davis and the remaining council members agreed to in the near future begin looking at ways of amending the current ordinance by including alternative means of providing community housing units.

"This is going to be a work in progress," Davis said.

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