Done deal

Sacramento’s City Council last week put the finishing touches on its mixed-income housing ordinance and approved it 9-0. The ordinance requires that 15 percent of all housing built in new-growth areas be affordable to lower income levels.

“This is a very progressive thing we have done,” said Councilmember Dave Jones, who pushed heavily for the proposal. “And it’s something we should all be proud of.”

The Oct. 3 vote marks the end of a long and at times rancorous effort by housing advocates to get the ordinance included in the city’s Housing Element. The measure met with serious opposition from the Building Industry Association and individual developers, but that opposition eased somewhat as the city has offered a range of incentives, including fee waivers, tax credits and housing trust-fund monies.

Under the ordinance, 10 percent of new units would be affordable to very low-income households, those making less that $27,000 a year for a family of four. An additional 5 percent must be made affordable to low-income households making more than that.

The policy is intended to create more affordable housing, but also to create neighborhoods that are economically diverse. The idea is that economically mixed neighborhoods are an effective way of lifting people out of poverty.

Mixed-income neighborhoods are also intended to fight the so-called jobs/housing imbalance that has become a problem in other areas. The jobs being created in new-growth areas are typically service jobs at the lower end of the wage scale. These jobs often don’t allow workers to live in the area where they work, forcing them to drive long distances or to rely on often-inadequate public transit.

Jones authored the ordinance, he said, because he was determined not to see new-growth areas such as North Natomas become exclusive enclaves of the wealthy.

The council rejected a late proposal that the city planning staff should have some discretion to lower the percentage requirement for certain projects.