Anaheim Considers Affordable Housing Requirement

JEFF ANTENORE, Voice of OC Contributing Photographer

Anaheim City Council Members Kris Murray, Lucille Kring, Dr. Jose F. Moreno, Mayor Tom Tait, Denise Barnes and Stephen J. Faessel, from left, (Councilmember James Vanderbilt wasn't present but attended by telephone) conduct a City Council meeting in their chambers at City Hall on Tuesday, June 20, 2017.

Will developers build affordable housing if Anaheim doesn’t require it?

City Councilman Jose Moreno says they haven’t, and won’t.

“When we ask, ‘how much of it is affordable?’ and they say ‘none,’” Moreno said of developers for new housing projects. “When we ask ‘why not?’ they say, ‘because we don’t have to.’”

A state study shows Anaheim needs 1,256 units of very low-income housing by 2021 and 907 units of low income units. The study assessed city needs for the eight-year period between 2014 and 2021. Of the total needed, the city so far has issued permits for 119 of the 1,256 very low-income units and 249 of the 907 low income units.

Meanwhile, the city exceeded its need for above moderate income units. The need between 2014 and 2021 is defined as 2,501 units, but the city issued permits for 4,714 units in half that time, according to the staff presentation.

Moreno has lobbied his colleagues to consider mandatory policies that would require developers to either include affordable housing in their projects or pay new fees.

Such policies, known as inclusionary housing ordinances, typically require developers to set aside a certain percentage of units in a project for affordable housing. Some ordinances give developers the option of instead paying a fee that goes toward construction of new affordable housing units.

Another policy, known as a linkage fee, would charge commercial developments a per-square-foot fee based on whether the types of jobs the development creates would generate a demand for affordable housing.

At least six Orange County cities – Brea, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Santa Ana, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano– have an inclusionary ordinance on the books, according to a city staff report. 

Moreno argued during an Oct. 24 city council meeting that letting the market lead the housing market hasn’t been effective for motivating developers to build affordable housing to accommodate the city’s existing workforce. Instead, the city has largely been building new housing for moderate and higher income families, he said.

City staff say since Gov. Jerry Brown eliminated redevelopment agencies statewide in 2011 – a tool which generated $14 million annually in funding for affordable housing— they have fallen short of meeting goals for building new affordable housing.

Other federal entitlement funds for housing also have decreased over the past decade, according to city staff.

Almost all the new affordable units in Anaheim are generated by standalone projects dedicated to affordable housing, staff said.

Moreno’s argument didn’t sway at least three of his six colleagues, who said they would not support any kind of mandatory policy.

Councilwoman Kris Murray said the city already has been proactive in constructing affordable housing – pointing to an Affordable Housing Strategic Plan established by a previous council in 2006, under which 1,511 new units were completed between 2005 and 2014.

“We’ve had a very aggressive policy in place…that put a lot of housing stock in place by repurposing commercially zoned and industrial zoned areas and then working with redevelopment to create that housing stock,” Murray said. “The limit to that has been the state’s dismantling [of redevelopment].”

Murray said she would like to see the council use tools similar to redevelopment, known as tax increment financing, to generate funds to use toward affordable housing.

“I would prefer we work in that direction and not look at some of these programs that fly in the face of our freedom-friendly history here,” Murray said.

Mayor Tom Tait and Councilman Steve Faessel both said they would support voluntary, incentive-based policies, rather than mandated ones.

“I’m more comfortable giving options to developers than mandating them,” Faessel said. “I for one would be more for more honey than hammer.”

Councilwoman Denise Barnes didn’t comment on whether she was in favor of mandatory policies. But she called for more housing to support low wage workers, such as those who work for Disneyland.

“Would anybody be interested in promoting low [income] affordable housing, near where they work, have transportation, have schools,” Barnes said. “And that way they could carry on and have a living wage and still be able to be near their job, and maybe even not have a car?”

Moreno asked his colleagues to set aside their ideological beliefs about government mandates to consider his proposal.

“When you don’t mandate this kind of policy, you’re really mandating residents to live two or three families to an apartment,” Moreno said. “We’re mandating people to live in garages or live in the streets. Or we’re mandating them to commute for an hour to two hours.”

The council has formed an ad hoc committee, consisting of Moreno, Barnes and Councilwoman Lucille Kring, to consider developing a policy, although Moreno didn’t specify what kind of policy.

Two representatives of the building and real estate industries spoke against mandatory policies at the meeting.

“Inclusionary zoning is an added regulatory hurdle…simple economics shows you cannot tax a market into existence,” said Adam Wood of the Building Industry Association of Orange County.

Peter Herzog of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association said instituting a linkage fee would only pass on the cost to homebuyers and raise the cost of housing.

“The problem with regards to affordable housing, and housing across the entire spectrum is it costs too much,” Herzog said. “What a linkage fee is, is to add a new cost onto housing.”

Joese Hernandez of the group Orange County Communities Organizing for Responsible Development, or OCCORD, encouraged the council to take aggressive action to increase the affordable housing stock.

“All we see is luxury housing developments going up left and right,” Hernandez said. “Affordable housing must be used as a tool to fight gentrification, not facilitate it.”

Contact Thy Vo at or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

  • Lisa avalos

    I have been on Anaheim housing waiting list since 2011 received a letter on Feb. 9 2017 to bring information in for intake appt on feb 27 on Feb 12 received a letter that canceled appt all funding exhausted? How long is list my daughter was in 7 th grade when I applied on SSI very desperate I’ll. No where to turn.Who can I talk to about this?

  • frustrated

    263,000 jobs created and I cannot find one of them. Where are they?
    I was evicted from apartment 3 months ago unfairly and no one is helping.

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  • Bill421

    There are businesses out there who can house very poor people for about a hundred bucks a month if officials change the laws and let them.

    • justanon

      With land values in OC I doubt that very much. Unless you’re talking about corporations being able to have indentured servants.
      Yeah, work all day for bread crusts and some straw on the floor of a rotting warehouse, the NEW REPUBLICAN PLAN FOR PROSPERITY …. POORHOUSES!

      • Bill421

        Storage units can and do house people here in Orange County, until they get caught. May not be up to your standards but if 9×5 room is good enough for prisoners isn’t it good enough for the homeless? Make truly affordable housing available and enforce vagrancy/ loitering and illegal camping laws, treat the mentally ill or the homeless problem never goes away.

        • justanon

          FYI: It costs an average of about $71,000 per year to incarcerate an inmate in prison in California.

          A 10’x 10′ storage unit WITHOUT FACILITIES is at least $150. a month.

          You’re living in fantasy land.

          • Bill421

            I live in a 9×5 in Placentia right now $89. You could put a family of 4 in a 10×10

          • justanon

            And where do you bathe and sh*t?

            Is that the storage facility’s responsibility?

          • Bill421

            24 hour gym right next door, $35 a month, showers, tv, internet. no it’s not their responsibility just a roof over my head at a cheap price.

          • justanon

            Well, good for you, but it’s not a solution for most homeless people.

          • Bill421

            Disagree with you there. It is a solution for a lot of homeless

          • justanon

            I’m not against small housing, I just think it will be far more costly than you think. The Great Park has 100 acres where a project like this could work.
            Build some restrooms/showers, laundry and storage facilities first and then people could even live in tents (temporarily).

  • LagunaTri

    Yet the Democratic legislature was all too happy to completely do away with redevelopment–both the bad and the good–to help balance the state budget.

  • chubbers

    last week I sat in on the Fullerton Planning meeting.
    One of the topics was approval of senior citizen housing, you the kind that the well off elderly who have million dollar homes to sell so they can live in comfort.

    Their justification for the senior housing development, Oakmont is that “young people need the home the elderly currently are living in. There is a housing shortage in Orange County, many veterans are homeless because of the shortage”. The people at the meeting who were in support of the project are business owners who are currently doing business with the company, in my opinion their accolades of the company was unbalanced, the Planners of Fullerton are not concerned about the lack of parking also they do not care if Oakmont and other senior care facilities are committing fraud or elder abuse, and currently have lawsuits as of now.

    I did email one of the City council members and inquired why they did not place a mandate for all builders, projects for housing and dedicate 10% of their elder facilities for low income “veterans” for minimum of 20 years.

    The company states that veterans are homeless but most do not have million dollar homes to sell. their concern for eldercare, veterans and the young people searching for housing is fiction, they need to be forthright or we cannot play ignorant to their monetary goals.

    What does this have to do about Anaheim?
    If Anaheim is the only city which mandates this solution for homelessness and affordable housing we all know what these so called concerned Eldercare and family housing contractor/owners will go to another city and build expensive homes.

    I do not know what the South has planned for affordable housing but all cities need to get on the bandwagon show citizens that they will mandate all construction to have at least 10% of their projects are affordable for 20 years.

    Affordable housing is not only a Fullerton or Anaheim problem is is countywide.
    Some cities will not agree, then they need to be held accountable for not doing their share on mandating all projects must have affordable housing, to establish financial assistance to families or vets.