Council updates standards for inclusionary housing

Developers will have to set aside 15 percent of a project's housing for low-income tenants — up from the current 10 percent — under updates to Encinitas' inclusionary housing ordinance.

The Encinitas City Council, on June 13 during a first reading of the draft ordinance, also voted to add language to the document that 10 percent of housing be set aside for very-low-income tenants.

Additionally, applicants may construct up to five accessory dwelling units to satisfy the affordability requirement.

Council members also agreed that all affordable units should remain affordable indefinitely, rather than a city staff-proposed minimum of 55 years.

Currently, city policy mandates developers allot 10 percent of market-rate developments for affordable housing or pay an in-lieu fee. In addition to those terms, the updated ordinance would also require applicants to provide an Affordability Gap Analysis unless Encinitas has adopted in-lieu fees.

Council members grappled Wednesday night with how to handle the fees. Council member Tasha Boerner Horvath said she believed the city should keep the fees "only if there is a mechanism to use them," such as banking them for affordable units elsewhere.

However, some residents argued against in-lieu fees, with former mayor Sheila Cameron calling them "nothing more than an escape mechanism for developers to walk away from... building affordable housing."

Mayor Catherine Blakespear encouraged eliminating the in-lieu fees to ensure affordable units are built.

The council also approved to set aside $65,000 for three studies: a Nexus Study, a Gap Analysis and an Economic Feasability Analysis. A Nexus Study would evaluate establishing an in-lieu fee for a development with six or fewer units, while a Gap Analysis would help determine in-lieu fees for projects of seven units or more. The economic feasability analysis would evaluate increasing the percentage requirement for affordable units at citywide and upzoned sites.

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