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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

ZORACES Members Discuss Affordable Housing Options

• Numerous Planning Tools on Agenda

BY BILL KOENEKER

What is an affordable housing overlay zoning district? That is what the Malibu City Council’s Zoning Ordinance Revisions and Code Enforcement Subcommittee, or ZORACES, talked about at a special meeting last week.
Councilmembers Skylar Peak and John Sibert sit on the panel. Sibert said this week there was not a large attendance at the meeting. “This will come forward with a staff report to the planning commission,” he said.
The subcommittee had a hefty agenda that included multi-family parking requirements, a density ordinance and the conversion or demolition of existing affordable residential dwelling units ordinance, residential care facilities, emergency shelters, transitional and supportive housing and single room occupancy housing and the affordable housing district.
A staff report describes an affordable housing overlay zoning district as a carrot rather than a stick approach to encouraging the building of affordable homes rather than requiring it.
“They are called overlay zones because they layer on top of established base zoning regulations, leaving in place opportunities for property owners to develop within these existing rules,” the staff report states. “Rather than imposing restrictions, AHOs present developers with more choices by offering additional benefits to projects that increase the supply of affordable residential units.”
Planners said AHO incentives typically include increased density, relaxed height limits, reduced parking requirements, fast tracked permitting, and exemptions from mixed-use requirements.
AHOs may also permit residential construction in zones otherwise restricted to commercial development. To qualify for the incentives, AHO developments must include a certain percentage of homes for lower income households, generally 25 percent or more of the units.
The reason for incentives is to facilitate affordable housing tailored for individual jurisdictions, to meet local needs and provide entry into competitive real estate markets for non-profit developers, according to planners.
Additionally, incentives are intended to ensure clarity and predictability of development standards and processes for the community and the developer and encourage use of scarce land resources to expand the land available for homes people can afford, the subcommittee was told.
The AHOs do not involve re-zoning of land. Landowners can choose to exercise the development options at their discretion.
Planners indicated that one AHO in Corte Madera produce the desired results. At least seven other jurisdictions in the state have implemented AHO policies.

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