ALBANY -- With the city well behind schedule on updating its portion of the general plan for addressing affordable housing needs, the city's Planning and Zoning Commission studied the often contentious issue at its Sept. 25 meeting.
Consultant Barry Miller presented a report and noted that the city is far behind in the current cycle, which runs 2007-2014, with its plan still unapproved. State law requires that cities prepare and maintain a housing element as a component of their general plans. A housing element is intended to ensure a "safe, decent supply" of affordable housing.
Cities are not required to actually construct housing, but are supposed to identify potential sites and use zoning rules to facilitate its construction.
"We are not developers and really the city is not a developer either so we don't decide what projects do or don't get built," Commissioner David Arkin said during the meeting. "We're trying to lay the groundwork so these projects can happen."
According to the report, Albany's share of the "Regional Housing Needs Allocation" is 276 units for the current cycle. Sixty-four of those units should be for very low income (defined as less than 50 percent of the average median income) and 43 units for low income (50-80 percent of the average).
Miller told the commission that there are several goals for the city, including conserving already constructed housing, producing new housing and reducing constraints on housing. Other goals are to ensure the construction of special needs housing (such as for seniors or the disabled) and fair housing.
In theory, the lack of approval of the current housing element means Albany won't have time to implement the plan before the end of the current cycle in 2014. Albany has traditionally been a difficult city to get approval of projects -- the University Village project now going through the process being a prime example. Attorney Bob Outis was one of the public speakers at the meeting and he put the blame on the City Council.
"The council has made very bad decisions about the allocations of governmental resources in this town," he said. He added that the word "affordable" is mentioned just once in the Voices to Vision plan for the waterfront. "It's in a context of affordable restaurants," he said.
An open house on the housing element was held on Oct. 1 and the Planning and Zoning Commission will take the matter up again Oct. 9. According to Miller, the City Council could take up the report at its Oct. 21 meeting. The city will have to submit its plan to the state but can request an expedited review.
"What we're hoping to do is bring their comments back and bring you a revised housing element for consideration in November or December," Miller said.