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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

City Council takes affordable housing idea, inserts in round container

Posted by on Tue, Jun 9, 2009 at 3:37 PM

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Fans of affordable housing may recall the recommendations of the City Council-appointed task force on the issue. (See the full report here.) A key recommendation: Adopt inclusionary zoning policies. Another: Turn the temporary Affordable Housing Task Force into a permanent advisory commission -- along the lines of the Arts Commission and the Convention Center Commission -- so that affordable housing doesn't disappear from the city's radar screen with the expiration of the task force.

Here's an update. Inclusionary zoning's going nowhere. And just to make sure it doesn't, the Council voted last week to take no action either on the idea of a permanent commission. Without any debate whatsover, the Council accepted the position of its Budget & Economic Development Committee, wherein Mayor Meeker (according to the May 26 minutes) moved that the proposed Affordable Housing Commission be wrapped up and deposited in the nearest trash can. All in favor: Meeker, James West, Nancy McFarlane and -- after some futile speculation about what else might be done -- Thomas Crowder.

Meeker's stated rationale, by the way, is that the county will address affordable housing, starting with an all-municipalities summit in September, so Raleigh needn't rush ahead. So -- put the affordable units out in the boondocks first? or in Holly Springs?

Why should Raleigh create a permanent advisory commission on affordable housing? Because without one, as the task force said, affordable housing is an the issue easily ignored by almost every city agency:

The Task Force believes that Raleigh’s affordable housing challenge has been

treated as an isolated issue separate from other City challenges affecting land

use, transportation, growth management, economic development, and

environmental conservation. In effect, affordable housing has been segregated

into one departmental “silo.” This approach has been ineffective and has not

kept pace with affordable housing needs, as the tables above clearly indicate.

This is discouraging. A change of approach is essential.

Whereas a permanent commission, following up on the work of the task force (and, presumably, with many of the same members), could watchdog city agencies with a practiced eye:

These recommendations are the product of presentations by public sector and academic

experts invited by the Task Force to share their knowledge; research conducted by City

staff and interns based on Task Force member requests for additional information; and

the experience Task Force members themselves brought to the many productive

discussions from their extensive work in the public, private and nonprofit housing

sectors.

The Task Force used Bay Area Economics’ Housing Market Analysis (September

2005) and the Community Inventory Report to supplement Task Force experience

regarding the need for affordable housing. We familiarized ourselves with the City’s

current affordable housing programs and the funding sources used. We studied Raleigh’s Scattered Site Policy to obtain an overview of the original concept, its effectiveness, how the policy has evolved over time, and possibilities for improvement.

We also requested and received a presentation and research on inclusionary zoning for an overview of the promise and limitations of that approach to increasing the production of affordable housing.

In a thriving residential market, to effectively meet the challenge of providing an

adequate supply of affordable housing distributed throughout the city, particularly in

High Priority Areas as defined in the City’s Scattered Site Policy, the City of Raleigh must address the issue in a holistic, integrated way.

That Meeker & Co. are so willing to let this knowledgeable group ride off into the sunset tells all we need to know about their eagerness -- or lack of same -- to tackle the important issues raised by their report.

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