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SPRINGFIELD – Springfield City Council continues to chisel away at the issues relating to housing diversity and affordability. This week, the council re-examined resolutions to lower barriers for developers and extend the use of RVs as a temporary shelter. 

Sandy Belson, interim planning manager, and Erin Fifield, community development analyst for the City relayed that, although the City experienced record numbers of new residential construction in the past two years, appropriate and affordable housing is still unobtainable for some residents. 

Continuing to waive system development fees – money owed to support infrastructure developments like sanitary sewer for the city system, stormwater and transportation – could incentivize developers, Belson said. 

During the 2021, fiscal year the City waived $108,229 in SDCs for additional dwelling units, and collected $5,685,101 in SDCs. ADUs are small, cost-effective residential dwelling units located on the same lot as another home, often synonymous with that of a “mother-in-law suite.”

The council has been waiving those fees for ADUs since July 2017. Since then, the City has received 60 land use applications for ADUs.

Councilor Leonard Stoehr noted that 60 is a considerable “bump” in ADU applications; Belson confirmed, noting that in the previous decade, applications were in the single digits. 

With the need reflected in those application numbers, Stoeher said “I don’t see the downside to encouraging people to put ADUs on their property.” 

There is a downside, Belson noted in her memo to the council. Waiving SDCs reduces the funds available for capital projects that have or will add capacity to Springfield’s transportation, stormwater and wastewater systems. The result is that the City will either not be able to build as many infrastructure projects, or in the case of wastewater and stormwater, the ratepayers would bear more of the construction costs for future projects.

On the upside of that, however, Belson said that waiving SDCs may encourage development that would not otherwise happen or make home ownership more affordable, therefore increasing the property tax base and increasing the number of utility customers. 

Councilor Joe Pishioneri encouraged fees to continue being waived for the next five years. “It doesn’t mean we can’t reverse it, but at this point, we can go five years without a lot of risk,” Pishioneri said. 

Mayor Sean Van Gordon agreed. “We need to give people certainty and clarity about what the council’s view is about this type of housing, and five years seems reasonable.”

With council in agreement, a resolution will be brought forth at an upcoming council meeting, which will propose that the SDC waivers be extended for five years along with an annual check-in. 

Income-qualified housing

On another note relating to SDC waivers, Belson proposed extending the SDC waiver on low income projects — particularly for nonprofit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity or SquareOne. In this case, the “waiver” would consist of a forgivable loan. 

Dropping these fees is a desire often heard from developers, Belson said. 

“That’s what we hear most from developers when we’re talking about what would help make housing more affordable or more practical … reduced or waived SDCs,” Belson said. 

This approach would make home ownership more affordable to qualifying households, Belson said. 

The nonprofit would need to guarantee that the household purchasing the home would be making 80% or less of the area median income and that the purchase price be affordable. If the house is resold within the affordability period – recommended to be five years – it must be sold to another low-income household at an affordable sales price. Otherwise, the seller would have to pay off the loan.

“This is a great way to get our partners to build more affordable housing,” councilor Kori Rodley said. “I really like to resell affordability for at least five years.”

The number of new homes eligible for SDC waivers would not likely exceed 10 per year, which would have a maximum impact of $109,020 in waived charges per year, according to the memo.

Council agreed that a program be designed to be brought back to an upcoming council meeting. 

RVs as temporary housing 

Council also revisited a resolution that allows the City to forgo enforcing prohibitions against people temporarily living in RVs on private property. Benson asked if the council would like to continue, discontinue or make the resolution permanent. 

“It’s been a good program, and was much-needed after the Holiday Farm Fire. We still haven’t ‘recovered’ from that,” Pishioneri said. “I know that there’s several homes still being built up the river, so there’s still a demand … people need these things as a stopgap.”

Pishioneri said he is OK with extending the resolution another year, but that it is unlikely he would vote for a permanent resolution.

The number of residents residing in RVs on private property in Springfield has not been tracked due to the “administrative burden,” Belson said. “Therefore, we don’t really have any idea how many people (staying in RVs) there are.” She noted that there have not been any complaints received – unless the people were not following the established guidelines, or there were other issues already on the property.

Council agreed that the use of RVs on private property should be utilized as a form of transitional housing, not a permanent solution. 

“You’re talking about extended family, seniors who no longer can function in the house by themselves but can live in an RV next door … I just look at it as one more option available to provide housing and socialization,” said councilor Marilee Woodrow. 

There is no direct financial impact to the City of allowing people to temporarily live in recreational vehicles and provides a low-cost housing option, Belson noted in her memo.

Council agreed to continue the resolution for another year, and have requested data around the quantity of people staying in RVs on private property, as well as any complaints recorded. 

Council on Monday also discussed the use of HOME-ARP funds and the establishment of a housing diversity tax exemption. The City has about $900,000 in HOME-ARP funds to allocate in addressing the needs of homeless people, or those on the verge of homelessness. 

Property tax exemptions were proposed to reduce general fund revenue for the City and potentially other taxing districts over the short term. The Housing Diversity Tax Exemption would be designed to encourage development that would not otherwise have happened. Belson noted in her memo that the exemption would provide the City with a long-term benefit with increased property tax revenue after the exemption period. 

Read more in an upcoming edition of The Chronicle.

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In other business:

■ Last week at the Springfield City Council, Mayor Sean Van Gordon made two proclamations commemorating the work of local agencies and individuals. He declared May 6 through 12th National Nurses Week here in Springfield, honoring the work of traveling nurses across the nation in conjunction with the National Nurses Association. He also honored the Springfield Police Department, declaring May 11 through 17th National Law Enforcement week in the City of Springfield. “I publicly salute the service of law enforcement officers in our community and communities across the nation,” said VanGordon. 

City Manager continues to face scrutiny

■ During the public comment period of the Springfield City Council, two members of the public came forth to express their frustrations with City Manager Nancy Newton’s appointment of Springfield Police Chief Andrew Shearer. Community member Aloha Heart said, “On April 4 2022, I and 10 other community members spoke about our concerns and disillusionment regarding our city manager’s permanent appointment of police chief here without a national search or any public input as she had promised in very specific comments. In her statement on June 6 2021. We are involved in our community because we care. So far, we who have spoken have been met with this from the City Council, Mayor and the City Manager.” Heart then proceeded to sit in silence for two minutes. At the end of the meeting, Newton responded directly to the public commentators. “I want to let you know that I have done outreach to some individuals in the community and have been trying to set up meeting times. I haven’t been able to connect on schedule with everyone. But I really welcome a conversation with anybody that wants to talk to me about this particular issue or about my hope and vision for not just our police department but for all of our city employees.”  

Overnight parking ordinance updated

■ The Springfield City Council adopted a new ordinance amending the temporary emergency shelter code within the Springfield Municipal Code, commonly referred to as the “Overnight Parking Program.” They changed the reference to churches in the code to “religious or social institutions. “Religious or social institutions” is defined to include places of worship, private non-profit charitable services, and fraternal and private civic organizations. This change would not include public institutions like schools or community centers. This ordinance will allow Catholic Community Services’ (CCS) to continue operating an Overnight Parking Program.  

Regional wastewater program budget approved

■ The Regional Wastewater Program Budget and Capital Improvements Management outlines the capital projects for the next five years. The RWP Budget and CIP reflects a continued focus on facilities upgrades, plant performance improvements, new permit requirements, and operations and maintenance activities to provide wastewater treatment for a growing community in a manner that protects the public’s health, safety, and the environment. Matt Stouder, executive officer with the program, gave a presentation on the budget. “It also will allow us to implement the commission’s key outcomes that drive our work as well as fund our capital program and protect community health.” The budget passed unanimously.

— Compiled by Ryleigh Norgrove