Flagstaff City Council approved zoning code modifications Tuesday to support future affordable housing developments.
The zoning code amendments will allow developers to request code modifications for new projects featuring 100% affordable housing, except in historic, landmark or airport overlay zones.
Dan Symer, Flagstaff Zoning Code Manager, said the increased flexibility was needed to assist new projects in meeting the city’s development standards. He added that the changes could incentivize additional affordable housing projects in the city’s future.
Potential modifications to the code include, but are not limited to, building height, density, lighting standards and parking space requirements.
For a modification to be granted, the development must be deemed in compliance with the city’s General Plan. As outlined in the plan, potential modifications cannot be detrimental to the public interest, health, safety, convenience or welfare of the city, and must benefit the public.
Further, modifications should be consistent with both the character of the area and similar developments. Character is assessed comparing features, quality and amenities of developments in the surrounding area or available to the public at a similar market rate.
“The idea is that you are not modifying the standard in a way that is eliminating other standards or amenities that are required entirely,” Symer said. “When you are looking at affordable housing development, you should not be able to tell the difference between that development and one that is market rate.”
For instance, Symer said that open space is an amenity that adds to a resident's living experience and cannot be entirely disregarded in order to fit additional units. He added that just because somebody is living in an affordable housing unit does not mean that their quality of living should be less.
That does not necessarily mean that affordable housing developments are required to have the same features of a neighboring housing unit next door, but instead that it provides different amenities to improve the quality of living.
“It might be too much to have a gym in there, but they might have an additional open space or a playground,” Symer said. “You may not want a gym or a Jacuzzi because there are a lot of kids there, but providing something comparable.”
The zoning code’s parking requirement is one standard that can be modified but comes with the added requirement of placing the parking structure within 1,320 feet of a transit stop. The city’s zoning code currently requires one parking space per residential unit, but with Council approval, a 100% affordable housing development could be allowed to provide fewer spaces.
Prior to the new zoning amendments that were approved, the zoning code had already allowed all affordable housing developments to request up to a 15% reduction in development standards. Tuesday’s changes will give additional flexibility for projects that consist of 100% affordable units, Symer said.