Inclusionary ordinance, essential for affordability in housing, to face Planning Commission

The Californian housing crisis has been one of the decade’s most dire issues, prompting skyrocketing living costs that have spurred displacement and homelessness to rare levels—and one of the many ways cities are combating the detrimental effects of the crisis is through inclusionary policies that require developers, on some level, to include affordable units in their developments.

The city of Long Beach has been looking into an ordinance of its own for over two years, with the council instructing city staff to look into it in May of 2017. Now, the first draft of that ordinance will face the Planning Commission on Feb. 20 before being handed off to City Council, where it will likely undergo severe scrutiny before being formalized into policy.

The city will share the document in the coming weeks as it will be attached to the commission’s agenda.

We previously examined what the ordinance could look like thanks to the study commissioned last year that the current draft is based upon. That study analyzed 64 other cities in California with inclusionary ordinances as well as various laws regulating such policies.

What the City’s inclusionary ordinance—essential for easing affordability in housing—could look like

For example, the California Building Industry Association sued the city of San Jose in 2015. San Jose’s inclusionary ordinance includes a common “in-lieu fee” where, if a developer decides they do not want to include affordable units in their development, they instead pay a fee that typically goes toward a public housing fund. The association felt that this was “confiscatory,” meaning they were not being deprived of a fair and reasonable return on their investment. The court ruled in the favor of the city: Inclusionary ordinances are a planning tool and are well within a city’s zoning power.

This was one of many laws and examples used to bring the study to Long Beach with as specific analysis as possible: We have not met our housing needs according to our state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Assessment that our city must submit every eight years. This, in turn, has created two problems: overcrowding (due to a lack of development) and increased rent (due to an increased demand, housing costs have skyrocketed).

To put this into perspective, the 7,048 affordable units needed to be built in Long Beach between 2013 and 2021 according to our assessment, only 1,650 building permits have been issued as of December 2017. That means 77% of the affordable housing we said we have to build by 2021 hasn’t even had a permit issued.

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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