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Apartments constructed in Glendale may soon be required to offer affordable units

An ordinance that would require most new apartment buildings in Glendale to include a certain number of affordable units is being drafted at the direction of City Council as part of a multipronged strategy to address rising rents in the area.

City Council members voted unanimously on Nov. 13 to create an inclusionary housing ordinance that would require developers of apartment buildings with more than five units to offer 11% to 15% of their total units at an affordable rate.

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“If you look at our track record, we have built a lot of affordable housing units using what resources we have … but this will provide a lot more,” said Mike Fortney, the city’s principal housing manager who has been spearheading the ordinance since the beginning of the year.

Developers can opt out of the requirement by paying what’s known as an in-lieu fee. They also have the option of providing the required affordable units at a nearby location or at another existing residential building they purchase and rehabilitate.

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Council members at the same joint meeting with the city’s Housing Authority also initiated the adoption of a linkage fee that would require developers to pay $4 per square foot for commercial properties of 1,250 square feet or larger.

Funds generated by the fee will then be used by the city to build affordable projects.

Both the ordinance and linkage fee are scheduled to return to the Planning Commission in March before moving on to the City Council in April, Fortney said.

An affordable housing lottery for 31 units launched by the city on Oct. 30 has already attracted about 10,000 applications, “so that tells you what the demand is,” Fortney said. Applications will be accepted until Nov. 27.

Currently, the city has two affordable housing projects under construction.

One, co-helmed by Habitat for Humanity at 700 E. Lomita Ave., includes six townhome-style units.

The other, known as the Vista Grande Court project at 1116 Sonora Ave., includes 66 units for low-income seniors.

Fortney acknowledged that each handful of affordable units can only offer so much relief, given that demand has outpaced supply. The hope is that meaningful change will come by implementing several concurrent remedies, he said.

Just hours after they voted to advance the inclusionary housing ordinance, council members headed to a meeting to discuss rent control and other potential means to address rent hikes that have sent some longtime residents packing.

Spanning nearly nine hours and drawing more than 100 speakers, council members could not reach a consensus on the best legislative plan for a resolution.

It came down to a 2-2 deadlock, with Mayor Zareh Sinanyan and Councilman Vrej Agajanian favoring rent control and members Paula Devine and Vartan Gharpetian leaning toward an ordinance known as Right to Lease, which would restrict landlords from raising rents more than once a year. They asked staff to bring back reports on both options.

As they continued to deliberate, council members discussed implementing a temporary rent freeze. A vote on the proposed freeze is set for Tuesday.

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