FARMINGTON — City Council voted on Tuesday to begin using the affordable housing plan despite strong opposition from two council members who said plan is poorly formulated and will be difficult to regulate.
The affordable housing ordinance that puts plan into use was passed at Tuesday's City Council meeting in a 3-2 vote with council members Mary Fischer and Jason Sandel voting against, and Mayor Tommy Roberts breaking the tie.
The ordinance allows the city to donate or sell property to developers only if they will offer affordable housing to residents.
“We have to remember that affordable housing is an important issue in the community,” Roberts said.
The city's elected officials agree that affordable housing is a major community need, Fischer said.
The rift in city council arose over the council's ability to regulate development.
“I share Councilor Sandel's concern about the abdication of authority,” Fischer said.
Under the process outlined in the ordinance, an interested developer may approach the city's Community Development Department. The project is then brought before city council for approval after a review by city staff.
Fischer thinks city council review should be the first step in the process.
At such a late point in the planning process, council members may feel obligated to grant approval, Fischer said.
“We're apt to get pinned into a corner,” she said. “I never want to be in that position. I think it's a lot of rigmarole to go through and I'm not sure it's the city's role to promote these projects.”
The plan does not require the city to involve itself in any affordable housing project, said City Manager Rob Mayes.
“This isn't obligating the city to any type of project,” Mayes said. “This is putting in the tool box.”
Fischer said the lack of a clause in the ordinance preventing the city from using its power of condemnation to take over a property is cause for further concern.
“I wish there was some guarantee that we could not use it,” she said. “(The ordinance) should have stated that we would not ever use those powers to promote an affordable housing project. That to me was a deal killer.”
The ordinance adopted at Tuesday evening's meeting is the final step in a lengthy process that began with the adoption of the city's affordable housing plan on May 24, 2011.
The plan had to be reviewed and approved by the state before it could be used. The ordinance adopted Tuesday allows the city to move ahead with the plan.
The plan's study found that nearly one fifth of homeowners and more than a third of renters pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing.
The ordinance allows the city to legally release land or infrastructure for the development of apartments, single family homes and other housing.
Affordability levels are set annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development based on the number of people per household and household income level, said Mary Holton, the city's Community Development Department director.