Homebuilders Association to oppose county's affordable housing policy


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The Homebuilders Association of the Central Coast (HBACC) will advocate for a repeal of SLO County's affordable housing policy—called inclusionary housing—and call for more "broad-based" funding sources to support affordable housing, a move that's drawn criticism from some community stakeholders.

In 2008, SLO County adopted an inclusionary housing ordinance. It requires developers to either build a certain number of deed-restricted "affordable" units in a project, or pay in-lieu fees that are then pooled to support nonprofit-driven affordable housing projects. Currently, the county's in-lieu fees are $3,150 per home for 8 percent of units.

At a HBACC board meeting last month, Executive Director Jeff Eckles received direction to advocate for a repeal of the ordinance. Eckles said the HBACC supports the county finding alternative funding sources to build affordable housing that don't penalize builders, come "on the backs of new home owners," and have more "permanence."

"We've always been opposed to the inclusionary housing ordinance," Eckles said. "The big problem we've got is the funding mechanism. Economic studies have shown the more layers of fees you put on housing, the higher the price of the house."

But affordable housing developer John Fowler, CEO of nonprofit People's Self-Help Housing and HBACC member, believes the organization is taking advantage of a conservative-leaning Board of Supervisors to protect its profits.

"[The Inclusionary Housing Ordinance] is insignificant to the price of the house," Fowler told New Times. "Cost is cost, and the market sells for what it sells for ... . Fees overall might make a developer pause, but not just this fee. This little thing doesn't change anything."

Eckles agreed that the inclusionary ordinance alone wasn't the "sole cause" of the housing market's problems, calling the developer fees in general, "death by 1,000 cuts."

The Board of Supervisors will review the ordinance in November, and the debate sets the stage for a larger conversation about affordable housing policies. Eckles said the HBACC wants to see the county invest more of its funds into affordable housing, through a parcel or sales tax, bond obligations, title transfer fees, or direct general fund contributions.

Fowler countered that the larger policy discussion can take place without repealing the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance.

"It's kind of like the health care thing: Do the broader fix, and then you can get all the Board of Supervisors to support it," he said.


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