From Veto to Victory for Englewood’s Affordable Housing

Englewood’s City Council, building upon their previous meeting in July, revisited the hot-button issue of affordable housing. Though last month’s assembly concluded with a 4-1 vote supporting the new overlay zones, Mayor Michael Wildes vetoed the ordinance, adding another layer of complexity and division.

At the heart of the meeting was the mayor’s veto of ordinance number 23-22, an initiative aimed at creating affordable housing overlay zones in Englewood. Mayor Wildes’s opposition was grounded in inconsistencies with the master plan and a desire to preserve the distinct character of Englewood’s residential neighborhoods. “Sometimes when a lot of people are telling us that we have to slow down, there’s no harm in doing that,” he commented.

Critics of the mayor’s veto argue that by thwarting these new overlay zones, the city may face challenges in expanding its housing supply, which in turn could escalate housing costs and strain affordability.

A pressing question centered on how Englewood would meet its affordable housing requirement. Englewood’s partial third round immunity had expired in 2019, with an agreement reached in 2022 to fulfill the city’s constitutional obligation to provide affordable housing.

However, there were also supporters of the mayor. Arthur Cook protested the state’s interference in Englewood’s zoning decisions, arguing that Englewood’s unique housing landscape does not align with a one-size-fits-all approach from the state. Horace Ragbir, another resident, pointed out concerns over flood-prone areas amid the potential for significant population growth, while seeking clarity on the distribution of affordable and market-rate units in the proposed developments. Another resident, Brenda Thomas, noted the complex language of these discussions leaves many feeling “confused and frightened.”

Angela David, a Board of Education member, pointed out potential repercussions like increased student enrollment, strained classroom space, and unresolved commitments from prior city developments.

The Fair Share Housing Center, a non-profit organization, emerged as a key player in the debates. Kenneth Rosenwald clarified that the group’s push for the overlay process was due to court mandates. The looming shadow of a “builder’s remedy” — the possibility of developers overriding the city’s zoning if no housing plan is in place — intensified the urgency of the council’s deliberations.

Councilmember Charles Cobb warned against fear mongering, emphasizing education as the path forward. He further reflected on missed chances in the past to incorporate affordable housing. He underscored the importance of aligning with Englewood’s master plan, pointing to the threat of builder’s remedy as a major concern.

Ultimately, a motion to overturn the mayor’s veto passed with a vote of four to one, and the overlay zones were enacted.

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