The Battle for Affordable Housing in Englewood Continues

The Englewood City Council convened on July 20th, 2023, engaging in a robust discussion regarding the city’s affordable housing obligations. This meeting came following a joint meeting held last week, in collaboration with the Planning Board, which also focused on improving housing affordability.

At the core of the meeting was the city’s constitutional obligation to provide affordable housing. With a prospective need of 819 units from 1999 to 2025, the city is currently navigating complexities associated with land availability and calculations that bring the actual number of required units down to 640. The pressing obligation is complicated by the lack of available land for development.

Despite the challenges, the city appears committed to meeting its affordable housing needs through various strategies, including the potential implementation of an overlay zone.

Overlay zones allow municipalities to impose specific requirements or incentives on a portion of a zoning district without changing the regulations for the entire district. This new approach could provide opportunities for multifamily housing development with an affordable housing component without altering the current zoning.

During the meeting, concerns voiced by residents mirrored those from the previous meeting. Many raised deep concerns about overdevelopment, gentrification, increased traffic, construction disruption, and the potential loss of local businesses and amenities. Questions were also raised about the impact of the plan on the city’s character, the potential strain on local infrastructure, and the specific locations selected for affordable housing.

One resident, Esther Rydler, expressed worries about how a new apartment building could impact her property value and neighborhood traffic, while others were concerned that the proposed strategy might leave many residents without access to housing they can afford.

In response to these concerns, the council acknowledged the need to plan for the next round of affordable housing needs and suggested incorporating public input into the planning process. It emphasized that nobody will lose their homes due to the initiative. Additionally, the council assured residents that existing protections, such as regulations on wetlands, flood hazard areas, and lot coverage, would remain in place to prevent potential abuse by developers.

Council President Judith Maron and Affordable Housing Planner John Szabo clarified that the overlay zone was not an obligation but an optional opportunity for landowners. However, the potential consequences of not meeting the city’s obligations, which could include forced rezoning through builder remedy suits, are substantial.

As the Englewood City Council grapples with its obligations regarding affordable housing, it is evident that the issue is far from resolved. A public hearing for the overlay ordinance is scheduled for August 8th, 2023. The council’s decisions and actions in the coming weeks will determine whether the city is able to solve the critical issue of housing accessibility in the city.

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