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We're trying to protect Alton with workforce housing ordinance

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,

By proposing the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance for Workforce Housing the Alton Zoning Amendment Committee and the Planning Board are trying to protect the town. They are proposing regulations for workforce housing that a developer would need to meet if he/she would propose such a project.

Protections and safeguards would be provided in the following ways for the town by adopting the ordinance:

1. The burden of proof that Alton is not providing its fair share of workforce housing in the county is placed on the developer when an application is made for workforce housing. The developer will need to document the need for additional workforce housing units in Alton. This burden of proof for the developer would not be required if there is no ordinance.

2. Any developer making application for a workforce housing project will need to demonstrate that Alton's land use regulations make it impossible to create new units that are affordable to working families. This would not be required in the absence of an ordinance.

3. The ordinance would control where and how workforce housing would occur in Alton. In the absence of such an ordinance, developers would determine where and how workforce housing would occur in town.

4. Workforce housing in the ordinance is limited to the Rural and Residential Rural Zones. Without the ordinance, a developer could propose a workforce housing project anywhere and in any zone in town.

5. The developer proposing a workforce housing project will need to submit information detailing costs and revenues associated with the project to justify any relief requested from Alton's Zoning Ordinance.

6. Under the ordinance, projects are limited to a minimum of 20 percent and a maximum of 50 percent of the units being reserved as workforce housing. Without an ordinance there are no limitations.
7. The developer of workforce housing, under the ordinance, must make a binding commitment that the workforce housing units will remain affordable. Without an ordinance there is no such obligation to make such a commitment.

With the current market, reasonable opportunities for workforce housing may currently exist with the existing housing stock in Alton. However, as the real estate market rebounds and prices escalate, the disparity is likely to increase between household incomes and affordable housing prices. This is likely to lead to a time in the future when the existing housing stock in Alton no longer provides reasonable opportunities for workforce housing.

The Alton Zoning Amendment Committee and the Planning Board are trying to be proactive and plan for the need to address the workforce housing issue when development pressures are slow and they have the time to apply themselves to addressing the issue. If development booms again, they will not have the time to tackle the issue. If the town has not adopted an ordinance establishing regulations for workforce housing in advance, it will be too late once a developer submits an application for workforce housing. The town will be left without he protections and safeguards noted above.

Kenneth McWilliams

Alton Town Planner