Poor folks axed from housing plan

With the state-imposed deadline looming for the city to revise its housing element, which covers housing needs, constraints and programs, the City Council decided, on a 4-3 vote, that requiring developers to build housing for low- and very-low-income folks is bad for the community. So it axed from the plan an element called inclusionary zoning, which requires new housing projects, including apartments, to provide low-cost units.

Developers like Greg Webb say such a requirement “places a burden on new construction” and passes the costs onto the rest of the housing market.

Councilmember Dan Herbert agreed and said there are already too many fees in place now. John Blacklock, speaking for the Chico Chamber of Commerce, voiced its opposition to the zoning as well. Advocates for the poor, such as homeless shelter director Tami Ritter, Community Housing Improvement Program head Dave Ferrier and attorneys Evanne O’Donnell and Andy Holcombe, supported the zoning.

Planning Commissioner Jon Luvaas said it was time for the local development industry and the city to become more imaginative about housing projects.

“Two-thirds of the [local] population needs housing,” he said. “But we’ve approved nothing for those making under $45,000 to $50,000 in income.”

He said the market instead caters to those who’ve sold their homes in high-price markets and brought their hefty equities to town.

In the end Herbert, with a second from Councilmember Steve Bertagna, moved to take the inclusionary zoning out of the housing element, which comes back before the council Dec. 16. Councilmember Larry Wahl and Mayor Maureen Kirk joined Herbert and Bertagna in the vote. The housing element must be submitted to the state Department of Housing and Community Development by the end of the year.