A small committee of Grand Rapids officials has put together 12 affordable housing strategies for the city to consider implementing. The Housing Advisory Committee was appointed by Mayor Rosalynn Bliss and includes 20 members, including Clay Powell, RPOA Director. They began meeting in November 2016 and came up with over 30 ideas, but chose 12 that could be acted on quickly.
The top 12 strategies are as follows:
- Reduce the PILOT fee
This would allow rental housing developments serving low-income households to drop the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program service fee to 1%, as long as they also contribute a 2% fee to the Affordable Housing Community Fund.
- Incentives for homeownership
Expanding the target area that the Homebuyer Assistance Fund covers would give more first time homebuyers within the city a chance to take advantage of down payment and closing cost assistance.
- Incentives for small scale development
Often referred to as the “missing middle”, the city believes that making affordable housing financing such as Low Income Housing Tax Credits that favor larger scale developments open to smaller scale rentals, such as duplexes and fourplexes not much bigger than a large house.
- Review Neighborhood Enterprise Zones
Adding affordable housing projects as a condition of new construction rehabilitation areas (Neighborhood Enterprise Zones) to qualify for a reduction in property taxes could reduce the cost of operating the development of affordable housing units.
- Encourage development agreements
By establishing a policy, this would allow for developers to voluntarily commit to goals like affordable housing when they are applying for tax abatement or other city assisted financing for projects.
- Provide density bonus
The city currently has density bonuses for multi-family developments where a certain portion of units are being priced for low-income families but these bonuses aren’t being widely used. If the city could loosen restrictions on minimum lot size, more people could take advantage.
- Include a prerequisite to receive tax incentives
The city could develop a policy or program that would ultimately result in mixed-income neighborhoods strongly supported by national studies. This could be done by perhaps offering affordable housing prerequisites for local tax incentives.
- Allow accessory dwelling units by right
Allowing accessory dwelling units—or mother-in-law flats—could give people a chance to rent tiny homes in areas they may not otherwise be able to afford to live in.
- Allow non-condo zero-lot-line units
By modifying requirements for single-family residential homes, more townhomes and row homes could be built in the city.
- Promote mixed housing types
Reconstructing the zoning laws to allow for mixed density residential (MDR) housing could bring a wide variety of new housing types to the city, such as row houses, detached homes, and flats.
- Review the residential rental application ordinance
Grand Rapids could start its own regulations on application forms and application fees that would allow for the fees to be returned to the applicant after a certain amount of time and limit cost of application fees.
- Establish an Affordable Housing Community Fund
The city has set aside $1 million for affordable housing in a new fund. This fund will grow over time to $10 million, and will help low-to-moderate income homebuyers with incentives and financial assistance for rental and housing developers.
No decisions on which of these strategies should be implemented, if any, has been made yet. You can read the full article here.
(The RPOA has already expressed its opposition to any local ordinances dictating the amount that can be charged for an application fees and any interference in the application process. Powell stated that the RPOA recommended other changes—most notably—a change to the number of unrelated people that can live together. The recommendation was that the number of individuals allowed to live in a rental should not be based upon a discriminatory practice based upon “relationship” but rather on existing property maintenance codes which are based upon the number of bedrooms, square footage of bedrooms and the square footage of the dining, kitchen and living room spaces.)