Council discusses LDS subdivision in-lieu fees, affordable housing

Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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By Brandon McCapes
Express Correspondent

The Winters City Council discussed so-called inclusionary housing in the context of the LDS subdivision at its April 19 meeting.

The City of Winters requires through its inclusionary housing ordinance that developers either build a certain number of affordable units to be sold below market rate, or else pay an in-lieu fee.

At the April 19 meeting, the council was asked to approve an inclusionary housing plan with the developer of the LDS subdivision, which resulted in some debate between council members and the city manager regarding the nature of in-lieu fees.

The LDS subdivision, approved in 2019, will subdivide a 3.29-acre parcel into 18 single-family homes, with the expectation that smaller lot sizes will result in decreased market-rate prices. However, the developer is still required to build affordable housing units, which are accessible to persons only in certain income ranges. The developer is building one moderate-income home, and paying $82,000 in in-lieu fees to make up for not building the entirety of the required units.

The council ultimately approved the plan, which involved splitting the in-lieu fee payments into two installments of $41,000, however, Councilmembers Pierre Neu and Jesse Loren questioned whether the in-lieu fees were working to build affordable units. They requested that the item be brought back at a future date.

Mayor Wade Cowan said that developers won’t build any housing in the town if fees are too high and make projects unfeasible.

“That’s something we have to consider. When we talk about trying to keep the cost of housing down and units affordable the first check these devs write is to the city for all these dev impact fees and permits and affordable housing fees. So can we charge them $300K per unit? We sure could, but then you’re going to add that cost that’s gonna get divided up among 18 houses and the $300k towards affordable housing is gonna balloon way up and the price of those houses are going to increase housing cost,” Cowan said.

Neu pointed out that the original proposal was supposed to bring in lower-cost housing.

“I’m well aware. My point is that when this project was first proposed as lower cost housing, I was looking at this as a way that people living in apartments could have saved enough money to put a downpayment and buy a house, if it was reasonably priced,” Neu said. “We are not providing for low-cost housing. It’s something I’ve been talking about on council and since I was on Planning Commission. It’s an equity issue that we all know.”

City Manager Kathleen Salguero Trepa said that while the sum seemed low, it is aggregated to help fund affordable projects such as the Cottages. Trepa said that staff would work to bring the issue of affordable housing back to the council for review at a future meeting date.

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