OCEANSIDE — The City Council has altered its course on inclusionary housing requirements for developers, frustrating some elected officials and residents who feel the city has failed in its efforts to create more affordable housing.
Over the summer, the council gave direction to staff to maintain its current inclusionary housing requirement, which requires developers to reserve affordable units for low- and moderate-income households at a rate of 10% for single-family homes and increase the rate of multifamily and mixed-use housing to 15%.
More than 40 members of the public spoke in support of raising the inclusionary housing requirement at the Aug. 30 housing workshop, many asking for 20% or higher. The council ultimately agreed upon a compromise and directed staff to return with the necessary code changes as soon as possible.
Staff returned Dec. 6 with its official recommendations to increase the inclusionary housing rate to 15% for multifamily and mixed-use projects and maintain the current 10% for single-family residential neighborhoods. But a majority of the council rejected the staff’s recommendation, instead opting to keep the 10% inclusionary housing requirement citywide and bump it to 20% only within the boundaries of the proposed Smart and Sustainable Corridors Plan along Mission Avenue, Oceanside Boulevard and Vista Way.
Additionally, the council changed the developer threshold that requires projects to build inclusionary housing from three to 10 units.
Despite the council’s unanimous decision, both Mayor Esther Sanchez and Councilmember Eric Joyce were dissatisfied with the outcome.
“We had these conversations already,” Joyce said. “We came to an agreement and staff worked on it.”
Sanchez said she felt the final vote was letting down the community.
“It’s a huge disappointment,” she said.
Sanchez also asserted that with the change, the city will be unable to meet its Regional Housing Assessment Needs requirement for low and very low-income homes by the time the current cycle ends in 2030.
Deputy Mayor Ryan Keim, who previously disagreed with a blanket inclusionary housing increase to 15%, said he fears more density bonus projects at an increased rate would negatively impact single-family housing.
Developers who are required to reserve affordable housing under the city’s inclusionary housing requirement also often invoke the state density bonus law.
Under the law, developments proposing five or more units are eligible to build past the base density and include concessions and waivers of development standards if they set aside a certain portion of affordable units. For example, a project that sets aside 15% of its units for very low-income households can receive up to a 50% density bonus.
Housing and Neighborhood Services Director Leilani Hines explained the rental price for a two-bedroom unit reserved for a low-income household would cost approximately $1,577 per month, while a two-bedroom reserved for a very low-income household would cost $1,314 per month. Hines said very low- and low-income households include those working as entry-level professionals, teachers and many city employees.
“We’ve heard a lot about, and continue to hear about, how San Diego is facing an affordable housing crisis,” Hines said. “We need affordable housing.”
For Keim, the challenge is putting the higher density in the right places throughout the city, like the smart and sustainable corridors, which are designed to handle more density around areas with more access to public transportation.
“We’ve done a good job of identifying those to get density in the right areas,” he said.
Keim said Fire Mountain residents were upset by the density of the previously approved Avocado Road project, which invoked the state density bonus law to build 19 single-family homes (instead of the base 15 homes) by reserving one home for a very low-income household.
“It’s a thoughtful move,” Keim said.
Sanchez noted that the original motion to approve the staff’s recommendation, which failed when Keim and Councilmembers Peter Weiss and Rick Robinson voted against it, would not have bumped the inclusionary housing rate to 15% for single-family neighborhoods.
“We’ve got to do everything possible to get folks who are working here in Oceanside and adult children to be able to live here,” she said.