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City Gives First Approval of Affordable Housing Ordinance

City of Alhambra Director of Community Development Marc Castagnola presents the Planning Commission's recommended changes to the proposed affordable housing ordinance, at the Sept. 14 City Council meeting.

Location

Alhambra , CA

The Alhambra City Council gave preliminary approval this week to the affordable housing ordinance, incorporating recommendations from the Planning Commission.

City staff will move forward to work with consultants and prepare a second reading of the inclusionary housing ordinance, as the legislation is formally known, for final approval at the next council meeting, Sept. 28.

The vote to move the affordable housing legislation forward was unanimous, and each council member spoke in favor of amending Alhambra’s zoning municipal code.

Once in effect, the ordinance will affect future Alhambra housing developments by requiring an “affordable” component in each project of seven units or more.

Developments of five or six units will pay a fee in lieu of the unit requirement. The fee will be based on recommendations by a consultant’s analysis, which will be carried out for at least the next four weeks.

City staff members said the ordinance would not take effect for 40 days after its adoption, or roughly in mid-November.

Both rental and for-sale projects will be required to offer a total of 15 percent of on-site dwelling units to low- and moderate-income households. Broken down into nine percent to low-income and six percent to moderate-income households, as defined by county income levels.

If a developer chooses not to offer “affordable” units on-site, it can construct comparable off-site units, donate land to the city or pay an in-lieu fee for the number of required units, at the cost of building one unit. Again, the fee is still to be determined.

The in-lieu fees would go into a housing trust fund to be used only for affordable housing projects.

Council member Adele Andrade-Stadler balked at the recommendation of the implementation of the in-lieu fee for projects of 5 and 6 units, saying the additional cost of the fee would be passed on to renters or buyers, but suggested keeping the commission’s suggestion of a 7-units trigger.

Council member Ross Maza said the recommended ordinance was a good starting point that could be amended in the future and agreed with Andrade-Stadler that he too did not want to cost to be high for small developments because, “without developers, this doesn’t mean anything.”

Council member Jeff Maloney said that there were more small developments in the city and including 5- and 6-unit developments would add to the trust fund.

After a discussion, all agreed that determining a “fair” in-lieu fee for the 5- and 6-unit developments, led by consultant recommendation, would be better for the city’s affordable housing goals.

Alhambra is required to build 6,808 new housing units by 2029, according to the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) numbers. RHNA numbers are determined by California for each region and divvied to each city.

The 6,808 units are broken down by income-level need:

  • 26% very low-income
  • 15% low-income
  • 16% moderate-income
  • 43% above moderate-income

Very low-, low- and moderate-income would fall under Alhambra’s affordable housing ordinance.

Very few calls and emails were sent to the council compared to those received during the Planning Commission’s meetings. Those who did make a public comment supported the affordable housing ordinance, and a few lamented it did not happen sooner or with more aggressive percentages.

Resident Eric Sunada encouraged the council to accept the recommendations because they were the bare minimum for affordable housing.

“The IHO is necessary,” Sunada said. “The market does not build affordable units on their own. Relying on the supply and demand model doesn’t work.” Sunada said the city has the opportunity to use the collected in-lieu fees to build the units that the free market will not.

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