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Setting the issues straight about housing

Posted: October 2, 2008 9:43 p.m.
Updated: December 4, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The issues raised in two recent Signal columns (Sept. 18 and 26) are important ones. Perhaps a clear and accurate definition of “inclusionary” housing would help. Inclusionary housing is a local requirement for market-rate (for-profit) housing developers to provide some percentage of affordable housing as part of their development.

Many cities and counties in California have Inclusionary Housing Ordinances.The city of Santa Clarita does not have an Inclusionary Housing Ordinance but is investigating the feasibility of developing one at the urging of local community groups.

The recent approval by the city’s Redevelopment Agency of a loan of redevelopment low/moderate housing funds to Mercy Housing is not related to the development of an inclusionary ordinance. Mercy Housing California approached the city of Santa Clarita with a proposal that would rescue a deteriorating building which was in default, and leveraged the city’s contribution with other and multiple funding sources. This project will be a win-win situation for the residents of the Hideaway Apartments and for the Canyon Country community.

Almost all inclusionary housing ordinances allow the developers to pay a fee, rather than develop the affordable housing within their project. This is often the most beneficial solution for the city, since market-rate developers do not typically possess the specialized skills required for the long-term management of affordable housing.

In cities like Santa Clarita, the fees paid in-lieu of constructing affordable units are often made available in the form of grants to non-profit affordable housing developers to create affordable housing. By themselves, these fees would result in the development of a very small number of affordable housing units.

Typically nonprofit affordable housing developers seek to leverage the grants provided by cities with other funds made available from the state or federal government, to increase the total number of affordable units available in one area. By leveraging these funds nonprofit affordable housing developers are able to make a much greater difference in improving the quality of life for residents of a community.

The use of low/moderate funds outside a redevelopment project area, such as the case with the Hideaway apartments, is common in California and does not require any approval beyond that of the Agency officials. Mercy Housing’s ability to improve and preserve an existing building in the city in need of dire repairs is consistent with the overall goals of redevelopment.

The city of Santa Clarita is working towards bringing more affordable housing opportunities to the residents of Santa Clarita. City staff is working on a number of affordable housing projects, several of which are in the Newhall Redevelopment Agency project area. Affordable housing has been identified as a necessity and the city is always seeking ways to provide it in a responsible and effective manner.

For more information, please contact the city’s Community Development Department at (661) 255-4362.

Armine Chaparyan is redevelopment manager for the city of Santa Clarita.


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