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County takes small step on affordable housing

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The SLO County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 on Dec. 6 to raise the fees developers will have to pay as part of the county’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance—but the new fee levels are still thousands of dollars short of what the county initially planned for.

Starting in 2017, the in-lieu fee for a 2,100-square-foot home will increase to $3,150 from $1,575, and the impact fee for a 10,000-square-foot commercial/retail building will be $13,600, up from $6,800.

Each year, the in-lieu and impact fees are pooled together for the county to assist developers with affordable housing projects that are often financially challenging.

Supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson felt the board should further increase the fees to what the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance planned for by 2017, which is $7,875 per home and $34,200 per commercial/retail building.

“The fees should be at full force right now. It’s been eight years,” Gibson said. 

But the political will wasn’t there, as Supervisor Frank Mecham only supported going to “Year 2” of the schedule—which is what the board ultimately landed on.

Supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton casted the “no” votes.

“The in-lieu fees are coming off the backs of entry-level, workforce people,” Arnold said. “I think the answer lies in affordable-by-design.”

In 2016, the county collected $628,439 in revenue. On Dec. 6, the supes voted to allocate the funds to three projects: the Olmeda Street Apartments in Atascadero ($22,438), the Brisco Road project in Arroyo Grande ($24,645), and the South Halcyon Road Apartments in Arroyo Grande ($635,322).

As part of the ordinance, which was passed in 2008, developers have the option to build affordable units in place of the fee. But county staff stated during the meeting that only one housing development, in Templeton, has opted to build units instead of paying the fees. 

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