Anaheim is the largest city in Orange County without a housing policy specifically aimed at building affordable housing, with most city council members resisting calls to institute a mandate for affordable units.
Other cities in the county have affordable housing policies, like Santa Ana and Huntington Beach that require developers to provide affordable housing in their developments or pay the city a fee which will go into building those homes elsewhere known as the in-lieu housing fee.
Anaheim doesn’t have any such housing mandates.
Some Anaheim residents worry their council members are not doing enough to address the need for affordable housing without an inclusionary housing ordinance on the books — in a city that some would say needs one the most.
“Here in Anaheim there is no shortage of development of market rate housing, whether it be apartments, condos and single family homes,” resident Jeanine Robbins told council members Sept. 28. “Due to the city’s lack of affordable housing mandate, developers purposely neglect to include low and very low income in the thousands of units that are currently under construction.”
Robbins said she’s seen an increasing need for affordable housing.
Despite this, Anaheim City Council Members directed city staff Tuesday, to submit their draft housing element plan to the State’s Housing and Community Development Department without including any such ordinance or even an effort to study the feasibility of such a policy.
The housing element — required by the state — is part of a city’s General Plan detailing its housing needs and how the city plans to respond to those needs.
During a housing workshop at the Sept. 28 meeting, residents called on council members to create an affordable housing mandate.
Robbins said an affordable housing mandate is crucial for the city to meet its state mandated housing goals and there should be a minimum requirement that 20% of every development should be very low and low income units.
As part of those housing goals, Anaheim has to zone for 17,453 housing units in the next eight years and 6,164 of those homes have to be for very low income and low income families.
Housing advocates have criticized city leaders across the county for what they describe as the overproduction of expensive housing and the underproduction of low income households, which they say is fueling the homelessness crisis.
Nearly all city council members voted to submit the draft housing plan except Councilman Jose Moreno, who abstained from the vote after failing his colleagues to examine an affordable housing mandate.
During the Oct. 4 meeting, Moreno called for an amendment to the plan to include a feasibility study and financial analysis on creating an inclusionary housing program that might help create more affordable housing in the city.
Moreno also called for a review of regional approaches to affordable housing mandates and policies in Orange County and the Southern California region to determine their impacts on local housing stock.
He said the most productive inclusionary housing policies are mandatory, require long-term affordability, offer incentives and multiple ways for developers to comply with the requirements.
“Colleagues I bring this to you because this is something that we heard came up repeatedly in public forums in the community meetings as staff reported on, I heard it loudly through my residents and constituents and folks across the city as well as affordable housing developers, and frankly, developers themselves,” Moreno said.
Moreno’s request died after failing to get support from his colleagues, who didn’t respond to his proposals.
At the Sept. 28 meeting, Councilman Trevor O’Neil — who’s part of the city’s housing affordability working group — said the group didn’t recommend an inclusionary housing ordinance or in-lieu fees because it will only fuel the housing shortage.
“This is dollars and cents and at the end of the day. As I had stated, when the developer has to absorb that cost, all it does is drive up the cost on the market rate housing, thereby exacerbating the divide between affordable and market rate housing,” he said.
Ted White, the city’s Planning & Building director, said the city’s housing affordability working group discussed inclusionary housing policies at an early September meeting and directed staff to examine creating a developer fee policy to create a housing trust fund.
“The potential amount of the fee will be determined based upon a number of factors, including — but not limited to — a market analysis to determine the potential demand for housing on the subject sites, and the impact that the development of market rate housing has on the city’s need for affordable housing,” White said.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.