City Council Squeezes Affordable Housing from Smaller Projects

New Ordnance Targets Two- to Nine-Unit Constructions, Conversions

By a vote of 6 to 1, the Santa Barbara City Council passed an ordinance that will require developers who build smaller housing projects-between two and nine units-or who convert the same numbers of apartments into condominiums to ensure that 5 percent of what’s built is affordable.

Developers seeking to opt out will be required to pay an $18,000 fee in lieu of actual housing units, a provision denounced by Councilmember Dale Francisco-who cast the sole dissenting vote-as “extortion.” The measure was championed by councilmembers Helene Schneider and Das Williams, who expressed alarm that the city’s existing ordinance-which was triggered by developments of 10 units or more-was missing most of the development or condo conversions being planned.

Currently, City Hall has either approved-or is processing applications for-77 conversions from apartment units to condominiums. Schneider and Williams argued that such conversions provide the owner a significant windfall in the form of appreciated property values, while removing much needed rental units from the South Coast housing market.

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