The Coast News Group
— City Council approved the city’s five-year financial forecast at its Feb. 5 meeting, which projects a general fund surplus of $1.31 million next year. Photo by Samantha Nelson

Council members want to make affordable housing easier to build

OCEANSIDE — At City Council’s Jan. 22 meeting, Councilman Chris Rodriguez and Deputy Mayor Jack Feller requested staff to discuss amendments to the city’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance that would potentially encourage more developer applicants to construct on or off-site reserved affordable housing units.

According to Rodriguez, the city’s current policies that would address affordable housing as well as the state’s policies are not working. He noted that only 354 units have been created in Oceanside in the last 10 years, while actually thousands more are still needed.

In 2013, options were added to city policy that gave developers more options to build units on site of projects, but those changes are still restricting developers financially.

The easiest and most predictable option, according to Rodriguez, is for developers to pay an “in lieu fee” of currently $8.25 per square foot of new construction. Though this is the top choice for developers, few units get built with these fees.

Rodriguez also pointed out that while the state mandates cities to meet housing needs determined by the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), cities are only mandated to have the zoning for affordable housing while it’s up to developers to actually build affordable housing.

Rodriguez said the city’s policy objectives should not be framed around meeting RHNA housing targets.

Feller noted most cities don’t even meet their RHNA-determined housing needs requirements.

Rodriguez and Feller want to see the city change its Inclusionary Housing Ordinance to make it easier and cheaper for developers to build affordable housing units by taking away a lot of the restrictive requirements currently placed on them by city policy.

“You see our method of build and how long it takes,” Rodriguez said. “If we give the roadmap to the development community who is ultimately responsible in the end for building these units and we say, ‘Here’s your rules, here’s what we want you to build,’ they’re going to do what they do best because they want to get paid.”

Feller and Rodriguez included suggestions for staff to explore, such as allowing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to satisfy inclusionary housing needs. Another suggestion was limiting the initial sales price of reserved units to allow for affordable housing payment.

Councilwoman Esther Sanchez did not agree with allowing ADUs to meet inclusionary housing needs, but she agreed to go along with council’s 5-0 vote that gave staff direction to explore making affordable housing more attainable in the city.

Sanchez suggested staff explore acquiring property through the in lieu fees the city already has. She added that rehabbing and acquiring property would be the “easiest and quickest way” to affordable housing.

Deputy City Manager Jonathan Borrego said that the housing element law continues to evolve and with each state legislative session there is more pressure put on cities to meet their affordable housing needs, which means it is an “opportune time to revisit” Oceanside’s policies.

Staff must come back with prepared amendments to the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance within 90 days.

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