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Affordable-housing Mandate Gets Preliminary Longmont City Council Approval

November 14, 2018

The Fall River Apartments senior affordable housing project is under construction in northeast Longmont. City Council early Wednesday morning gave preliminary approval to an ordinance mandating 12 percent of a project's livable square footage be devoted to affordable units. The ordinance is slated to be discussed again at council's Nov. 27 meeting.

Longmont City Council early Wednesday morning gave initial approval to an ordinance that essentially would mandate that 12 percent of the livable square footage in a new residential development be dedicated to units affordable to low- and moderate-income home buyers and renters.

That “inclusionary housing” measure might still be a work in progress, however, and could undergo changes when it come up for another council vote on Nov. 27.

Council members spent several hours Tuesday night and Wednesday morning making changes to the 31-page version of the ordinance staff had prepared after a series of meetings over the past year. Those changes will be posted in a revised ordinance and available for public examination prior to the Nov. 27 meeting.

After discussing and approving those changes in a series of votes before and after midnight Tuesday, the council’s 12:45 a.m. Wednesday vote for preliminary approval of the measure was 6-1, with Councilwoman Bonnie Finley dissenting.

If the ordinance gets final council approval in its current form, it would require that 12 percent of the livable square footage in a new residential development be dedicated to units that home buyers making 80 percent of the area median income and renters making 60 percent of the area median income can afford.

The program would give developers options for meeting the 12 percent requirement beyond building affordable units on the same site as market-rate homes.

One option would be for developers to pay square-footage fees that would go into a city affordable housing fund. A second would be to build the required affordable housing in another location. A third would be to donate ready-to-develop land to the city with a property value that matches what would otherwise be required in fees — land on which affordable units could then be constructed.

A combination of those three options also would be possible.

Prior to the council’s hours of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning consideration of the ordinance, several people showed up to comment on — and in some cases, criticize — the version city staff had drafted after 10 previous council meeting discussions of what council members wanted included in the measure.

Wildrose Place resident Jake Marsing charged that city officials had met “countless times” with builders, developers and their financial backers in crafting the ordinance and little or no time with affordable housing advocates and residents who would benefit from inclusionary housing mandates.

The proposed ordinance has “a lot that needs to be fixed” before passing it, Marsing said, adding that he hoped council would stop asking what’s best for developers and instead ask “what’s best for working families.”

Jessica Erickson, president and CEO of the Longmont Economic Development Partnership, told council that “we do not believe, as written, this ordinance will advance your objectives” of providing more affordable housing units.

Later, during the council’s discussion of the measure, Councilwoman Marcia Martin said “what we’re trying to do is make it possible” for builders to construct the kinds of affordable residences council wants to have available.

“This is a complicated ordinance,” said Councilwoman Polly Christensen, adding one of its purposes “is to reduce the risk of homelessness.”

The council’s Nov 27 consideration of the ordinance with council-approved revisions — a version Mayor Brian Bagley suggested staff make more concise than the one up for consideration Tuesday night — will include a formal public hearing and could generate more council amendments. Any such changes could delay further consideration of a final ordinance until December.

John Fryar: 303-684-5211, jfryar@times-call.com or twitter.com/jfryartc

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