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No-cost deal seeks low-income homes

Proposal raises density limits in exchange for ‘bonus’ units

Developers would be allowed to exceed density limits under a proposal to increase low-income housing in Spokane Valley.

The plan is proposed by the city planning staff in cooperation with Northeast Washington Housing Solutions, a public agency that administers federal housing programs.

Senior planner Mike Basinger told the City Council Tuesday that the city could obtain low-income housing at no cost by letting developers build more apartments per acre than ordinarily would be allowed.

A proposed ordinance, tentatively scheduled for first reading on Oct. 27 and final action on Nov. 17, would apply in zones where apartments are allowed. It would award full-price “bonus” apartments in exchange for low-income units in the same project.

The offer would be limited to projects with 20 or more apartments that meet new design standards.

Because there would be more apartments than usual, developers would have to leave at least 15 percent of their land open instead of the current 10 percent.

Also, developers would be required to preserve natural amenities such as views, “significant or unique” trees, groupings of trees, creeks and riparian corridors. They would have to emphasize natural topography, preserving hills.

Developers also would have to give buildings and other structures a consistent appearance, use visible locations for play equipment and keep pedestrian areas separate from roads and parking lots.

In exchange, the city planning director could relax setback requirements and allow height limits to be exceeded by as much as 25 feet.

After meeting those requirements, developers could be awarded extra full-price units by agreeing to provide some units that would cost no more than one-third of a family’s income.

The commitment would be for the life of the project, guaranteed by a covenant running with the land regardless of ownership.

Developers could get 40 to 60 percent density increases, according to the income level of “work force” tenants they agree to accept. At least half of the extra units would be for low-income tenants.

Annual income calculations by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would be used. The department said last year’s median was $56,700.

Standard densities could be increased 20 to 40 percent, depending on the income categories of tenants the developer agrees to accept for one-third-of-income rents.

Additional density increases would be allowed for amenities such as energy efficient construction, a covered bus shelter, underground parking, benches or fountains, playground equipment, a sports court or an indoor recreation facility.

The most any project could exceed normal densities would be 60 percent.

Density bonuses would be limited to the multifamily medium-density residential (MF-1), multifamily high-density residential (MF-2), corridor mixed use (CMU), mixed use (MU), mixed-use avenue (MUA), city center (CC) and community boulevard (CB) zones.

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