In a city council meeting on July 11, 2023, Englewood grappled with issues surrounding affordable housing, local development, and community concerns over gentrification. Council members engaged in animated debates over proposed housing ordinances and faced heated public response concerning the rapid development of the area.
The meeting, which was rich in both depth and breadth, centered around the significant shortfall in affordable housing. By law, the city must provide for an “unmet need” of 819 housing units but is currently providing only 76. The discussion considered various solutions, such as using municipal property to build affordable housing.
First in focus was Ordinance 23-19, a critical piece of legislation outlining amendments to the administrative code and the designation of a Municipal Housing Liaison and Administrative Agent. City Attorney Mr. Cool provided clarification around the appointment of an Administrative Agent, stating that such appointments are a common practice among municipalities grappling with affordable housing litigation.
In response to public concerns over the appointment process for the Administrative Agent, the council reiterated their commitment to transparency and legality. Yet, there was a sense of tension and disagreement as the council navigated these discussions.
The council also discussed Ordinance 23-20, a proposal that could increase development fees to raise contributions to affordable housing. Council member Michael voiced concerns over the potential negative impacts of this ordinance on homeowners, stating that it could discourage property improvement and promote potentially unsafe developments. On the other hand, it could raise vital funds without increasing taxes.
Similarly, there was debate over Ordinance 23-21, which would consolidate codes and establish procedures for affordable housing, including developer requirements, price restrictions, and rent restrictions. The council deferred voting on this ordinance for further public comment and review.
However, one of the most contentious issues was the city’s new housing overlay zone plan. The overlay zone aims to increase the availability of housing downtown. Various residents raised opposition.
A recurring topic was the potential construction of 4,000 high-density apartments throughout the city. One resident argued, “constructing 4,000 apartment units in the wrong places will potentially decimate our city.”
On the other hand, it was noted that such units could go a long way towards making housing more afforable not only for the thousands of families that will use those units but also for other residents of the community. Advocates for affordable housing underscored its critical importance, arguing that it fosters economic diversity, promotes community stability, and provides essential living options for low-to-moderate-income families, thus building a more equitable society.
Amid these discussions, residents also voiced concerns over local gentrification, feeling they were being displaced by these developments. They called for more public input and direct engagement with the planning board, expressing frustration over the pace of development and its impact on the quality of life.
The council’s efforts to balance various interests—legal requirements, community needs, and the economic future of Englewood—provided a dramatic backdrop to the discussions. Consensus proved out of reach – both among the council and between the council and residents. As Englewood navigates these complex issues, the council will undoubtedly need the public’s input on this important topic.