Alexander Koenigseker: Longmont’s Inclusionary Housing Revisited

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Due to the always present problem of affordable housing in Boulder County
and the growing number of new developments in Longmont, Longmont City
Council is revisiting the “Inclusionary Housing” policy that was enacted
for 10 years before being repealed in 2011. The policy would require 10
percent of all new residences be designated as affordable before plans can
be approved by the city. At first glance, this policy seems like a great
addition that would dramatically increase the number of affordable
residences in Longmont from the limited 1,611 that can be found now (City
of Longmont “*Affordable Rental Information*”). What could possibly be a
downside to Inclusionary Policy? Well, developers don’t have to develop in
Longmont or at all.

When the policy was first passed in 2001, the number of residential
building permits issued by the city of Longmont was at its highest since
data was available in 1973 with a total of 1,641 permits. The following
year, the number of permits issued for residential buildings dropped
dramatically to a mere 983 and continued to drop, hitting a low in 2009
with a total of 63 permits being issued. Two years later it was later
repealed due to the assumption that it was stunting development growth and
putting too much of a burden on the home development community (*Longmont
Workforce Housing Task Force Report to City Council*). In 2012, one year
after the policy was repealed, the number of permits issued by the city
more than doubled from 119 to 378 and has continued to increase with 1,009
permits issued in 2017 with no signs of slowing down (Longmont Planning and
Development Services Reports).

Is inclusionary housing the best policy for Longmont? No, and we have seen
that in the past and so has larger cities such as Denver and Oakland. In
2013, Governor Brown wrote, “As mayor of Oakland, I saw how difficult it
can be to attract development to low- and middle-income communities.
Requiring developers to include below-market units in their projects can
exacerbate these challenges, even while not meaningfully increasing the
amount of affordable housing in a given community.” (NY Times, “*Affordable
Housing That’s Very Costly*”). Does this mean that we are doomed to never
have affordable housing? No, we just need a different approach. Longmont
currently has an incentive program for developers that allocate 10% of
their units for affordable housing. These include an expedited review
process, density bonuses, fee waivers, and subsidies for water/sewer system
development fees ( “*Affordable Housing Incentives for
Developers*”). These are standard ways that most cities that are growing as
fast as Longmont are using to increase the amount of affordable housing
available. To solve the affordable housing shortage, it will take
innovation and creativity instead of standard incentives.

In 2016, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced a new revolving fund to
address the same lack of affordable housing that we are seeing in Longmont.
The fund is used to support the difference of the affordable housing and
current market rates for families that have a household income below the
local average. This provides a large incentive for developers while
providing affordable housing for families that need them. An adapted
version of Denver’s fund could become equally successful in Longmont and a
much better alternative to the proposed inclusionary housing policy.
Opening a fee-based expedited process and adjusting current affordable
housing incentives would allow Longmont to build the capital required to
properly integrate the program without increasing taxes on residents. This
expedited process would allow for non-affordable housing developments to
take advantage of the fast track process while raising the capital needed
to support the fund.

This is only one option of the many that Longmont should examine before
acting on inclusionary housing. There may not be a perfect solution to the
problem of affordable housing but it will require innovation and creativity
on the part of City Council and not just the re-implementation of past
programs that have failed.

Alexander Koenigseker, Longmont, CO 80501

This is an opinion piece that was submitted to the Longmont Observer and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Longmont Observer. If you have an opinion piece you’d like published, please visit our ‘Submit an Opinion’ page.