At their June 6 meeting, the Saratoga Springs City Council is set to vote on the Saratoga Places for All (SPA) Housing Ordinance. We hope the Council will unanimously adopt this long-overdue, important legislation.
The ordinance would require that, in housing developments of ten or more units, up to 20 percent of the units be set aside as affordable to households of modest income. This will create more housing opportunities for our teachers, police officers, firefighters, health care workers and other vital members of our workforce and community.
Developer costs to provide these affordable units would be offset by the ability to build up to 20 percent more units on the same site. This program would apply to housing developed for both sale and rental units. There are no state or federal subsidies needed for this program. The city or a designated third party would administer it, and the costs are projected to be quite modest in comparison to other programs. The ordinance was crafted specifically for the Saratoga Springs housing market.
Some developers oppose the ordinance. Since they have had a long run of building very profitable, high-priced units within the city, it is not surprising that they are reluctant to change. Contrary to some of their claims, though, we have seen no evidence that “the numbers don’t work” for the developers under the proposed ordinance. The council has provided numerous developer incentives to offset the required set-aside for more diverse housing.
We are pleased the city is encouraging the site-specific workforce housing developments on South Broadway and West Avenue. However, these projects depend on federal and state housing tax credits and it is not yet certain they will be funded. Well-designed, site-specific projects can play an important role in a city’s affordable housing toolbox, but they work best as a complement to inclusionary models that require diversity and affordability throughout the community.
This ordinance is a longterm program that will guarantee a continuing supply of affordable middle-income housing throughout the city. There is no question that the need for such housing is great for lower and middle-income residents and workers. This ordinance is just one part of the solution to our affordable housing crisis. The community’s approach to housing issues needs to include a wide range of programs. Let’s pass this ordinance and keep working on other proven solutions.
In the “State of the City address” Mayor Joanne Yepsen expressed hope that the City Council will have the political will to adopt this SPA Housing Ordinance. We couldn’t agree more.
Be a part of history. Come to the June 6 council meeting to show your support and witness the vote on this ordinance, which will increase housing opportunities for Saratogians.
Board Chair of Sustainable Saratoga