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Paso mulls relaxing fee payment deadline for homebuilders

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After lowering developers' utility connection fees by 21 percent in an effort to generate more housing, the city of Paso Robles is now looking at expanding the timeframe for when builders can pay their fees.

On May 7, the Paso City Council voiced its support for a six-month pilot program to allow developers to pay impact fees as late as at the issuance of a certificate of occupancy, as opposed to before a building permit is issued. The proposed program will come back before the City Council for final approval at a later date.

"Paso Robles has a severe housing shortage," a May 7 city staff report read. "The more fees a developer/builder needs to pay, and the earlier they need to pay them, [the higher] the costs of housing. ... By delaying fee payment, builders' carrying costs are reduced."

Relaxing the fee payment deadline is part of a larger package of tweaks to Paso's development process that city officials hope will attract more housing to the community.

In 2016, Paso assembled a Housing Constraints and Opportunities Committee (HCOC) that has since recommended the reduction of utility connection fees, the restructuring of fees to scale to the size of the unit, and the pilot program discussed on May 7.

Larry Werner, retired CEO of North Coast Engineering and a member of the HCOC, told New Times he thinks the pilot program would be effective in making more projects viable for builders.

"It's one of the things we'd been discussing," Werner said. "You've had to pay that money up front—even before you pull your building permits. It's the up front money that is difficult for developers."

Werner praised the city for taking on the reforms, adding that the HCOC plans to bring forward a recommendation to reduce development impact fees in the next few months. He added that the fee reductions are measured and meant to generate workforce housing, not to free developers of their financial obligations to city services.

"Clearly they've taken a very responsible approach to reanalyzing the fees. They're very defensible," Werner said. "One of the critical things we have to face is if we want to encourage businesses to come to Paso, they have to have places where their employees can afford to live."

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