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March 3, 2010 > Housing Element update

Housing Element update

By Meenu Gupta

Newark City Council unanimously approved the housing element update and the changes made in response to the comments from the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). In December 2009, Council approved the Program Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Housing Element, related re-zonings and General Plan amendments. No actual projects have been approved but future development would be streamlined, consistent with the Housing Element's vision. The update comes after community feedback.

One of HCD's main concerns was the City's inclusionary housing program, adopted in 2004 to ensure availability of affordable homes to low- and moderate-income families throughout the city. The Housing Element provides more information about the alternatives to construction and current fee amounts. The city will now conduct a study and carry out regular monitoring of the program to ensure the inclusionary housing requirements do not discourage construction of regular market rate homes.

Another concern was how the city would provide housing for Extremely Low Income (ELI) households. The Housing Element now includes statements that the city will work with non-profit housing developers to identify how to meet that end and the City will give priority to projects that provide this type of housing when allocating funds.

To comply with state law, the City also needs to ensure that land, which is re-zoned to high density, will have a minimum density of 20 units per acre.

Finally, the element provides additional information and clarification on several topics, including the possibility of phasing development on the City Hall site, the expected timing for the two specific plans currently underway in the city, details about the implementation of the inclusionary housing requirement in Areas 3 and 4 and more about the incentives for lot consolidation in the mixed use district.

Although the Housing Element has been revised since the Program EIR was drafted and adopted, none of the revisions will affect the environmental effects of the project. After the Council's approval, the updated Housing Element will now be submitted to the state for final review and certification. Staff will then begin implementing the various programs set forth in the element.

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