On Friday, we learned that 16 new single family homes being built on Rosemary Lane will be priced at $1,035,000 or $1,248,000. When the city planning commission approved the proposal, the builder “intended” to build 16 less expensive townhomes, costing between $540,000 and $600,000. What happened?
Durango’s Fair Share Housing program requires that 16% of new homes built be affordable to low-income residents, or the developer must pay a fee. Dan Armentano, a city planner, explained that the “in lieu of affordable housing” fees change yearly and are “based on a complicated formula.” The Rosemary Lane developer opted to pay the city’s $146,422 fee.
The math is not complicated. A developer’s plan for 16 townhouses was approved by the city in June 2020. In 2023 the developer will instead build 16 freestanding homes to sell at twice his “intended” price. The developer will earn an additional $8 million, while the city collects a $150,000 fee. In 2024, 16 new $1 million-dollar homes will go on the market, while we collectively wring our hands and bemoan the lack of affordable housing.
How many other developers have opted out of building affordable housing while the city collected from its complicated “in lieu of” affordable housing fee? Perhaps we need developers who truly intend to build homes our workforce can afford, and tools that enable our city planner to hold them to their good intentions.