One of the key challenges of successfully implementing inclusionary housing programs is ensuring adequate staffing levels to support and monitor builders during the development process, which may involve:
- Helping real estate developers who are considering building in a community understand their options for meeting their affordable housing obligations.
- Assisting developers who have proposed projects that don’t fit neatly into categories outlined in legislation.
- Evaluating alternative scenarios for a project’s likely public benefits and making recommendations.
- Reviewing and approving developers’ affordable housing plans to ensure that their proposals match program requirements. These documents may outline in detail the unit types, location, amenities, income targeting and similar details for their proposed projects.
- Monitoring a project’s compliance with program requirements before it receives its certificate of occupancy upon completion.
Some jurisdictions seek out staff members with specific expertise, particularly for pre-development tasks. For example, some jurisdictions employ staff with planning or architecture backgrounds to interface with developers and with planners. These staff members process and evaluate development proposals and help monitor compliance during construction. Use of staff with planning, architecture, or real estate backgrounds is especially valuable to those jurisdictions whose inclusionary programs offer flexibility in how developers meet requirements.
Eagle County, Colorado
In Eagle County inclusionary program staff includes a planner who works directly with developers and the planning department to shape large development proposals in order to meet housing goals.
Adequate staffing is essential to an inclusionary housing program’s ability to maintain long-term affordability of inclusionary units. PolicyLink described one extreme case where inadequate staffing led to a permanent loss of affordable units:*
“There have been a small number of well-publicized cases where understaffed local governments have literally lost track of affordable units after requiring developers to produce them.
Beginning in the late 1970s, the California Coastal Commission began requiring developers in coastal Orange County to make 25 to 35 percent of any new housing affordable to low- or moderate-income buyers. These state-mandated units were entrusted to the Orange County Housing Authority for administrative oversight. However, the program provided no funding for monitoring and oversight, and by the early 1980s, the housing authority was responsible for over 800 such units.
The workload became so burdensome that housing authority staff were unable to dedicate the time necessary to identify new buyers and began regularly releasing units from restrictions rather than exercise its option to purchase the units at an affordable price. By 1983, the housing authority had released 132 units from restrictions and only purchased 22 units.
The authority board voted to terminate the program and release the remaining units. The state intervened and assigned responsibility to another agency, which experienced similar problems and released an additional 25 units. It was only when the state provided grant funding to a third administrative entity (nearly 20 years after the first units were sold) that monitoring and enforcement received real attention. By then, however, the damage was done and a judge ruled that many of the remaining deed restrictions were unenforceable because enforcement had been so mismanaged.”