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Cheaper housing gets official look

Laura Sturza

To increase the city’s stock of affordable housing, the City Council

could require new developments of 10 or more units to include 15%

low- and moderate-income dwellings.

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The prospect of sending developers running from Burbank at the

threat of having their bottom line cut means the city plans to work

closely with the development community, the Chamber of Commerce and

the Burbank Assn. of Realtors in drafting the ordinance, Principal

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Planner Joy Forbes said.

“We have a financial consultant on board who will be able to tell

us [if] developers are going to be able to build if we have such an

ordinance,” Forbes said.

The City Council voted unanimously to have city staff gather more

data about the proposed law, including soliciting public input.

Because the idea is in the early stages, developers were hesitant

to weigh in on it until they have more details.

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David Paul is building the Cottages along the 2200 blocks of North

Ontario and North Fairview streets, in partnership with the city’s

Redevelopment Agency. The single-family housing project includes

affordable units. While such an ordinance can stop development, he

thinks the city needs to find ways to keep lower-income people living

in town.

“There isn’t only one way to bring about low-cost residential

[housing],” Paul said. “The subsidy has to come from somewhere.”

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Several incentives could make the law palatable to builders. These

include partnering with the Redevelopment Agency, receiving the

state’s blessing to build higher-density complexes, or the city’s

approval to build less parking -- all options that could keep a

project profitable, Forbes said.

But the 85% of buyers or renters who would pay market rate for

their units are unlikely to see a spike in their costs to make up for

the lost revenue from low-income units.

“No matter what, market rate is market rate,” Paul said. “You

can’t increase that, or you won’t sell or lease.”

The Olson Co., which is building the 140-unit downtown Burbank

Village Walk, with 10% of the apartments to be sold below market, is

accustomed to working with redevelopment agencies.

“By limiting the revenue opportunities, it’s going to be harder

for any developer to justify the feasibility of a project,” said Ben

Besley, Burbank Village Walk project manager. "[However], if there is

an affordability requirement in the city of Burbank, we will deal

with that requirement on a project-by-project basis.”

Cities throughout California, including Pasadena and Long Beach,

have affordable housing ordinances. Studies show that cities have

adapted to the law favorably when the demand for real estate is high,

said Duane Solomon, the city’s housing development manager.

“When you’re in such a strong housing market, this is the right

time to take this step because the market will right itself,”

Community Development Director Sue Georgino said.


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