Santa Clara City Council approves affordable housing report, discusses implementation strategies

Santa Clara City Hall, Santa Clara, Utah, Oct. 9, 2019 | Photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Santa Clara City Council approved a state-required affordable housing report at their Wednesday meeting. The report will be sent to the state to show what steps the city has taken to implement strategies making affordable housing possible in the future. 

Each year, the city must submit a report showing their efforts to increase affordable housing. In 2019, the state mandated that cities choose at least three strategies from a list of 23 to more aggressively address affordable housing. City Planner Bob Nicholson said Santa Clara chose four and has begun implementing them over the last year. 

“In 2020, we had to take steps to try and implement those strategies and provide a report to the state which is due Dec. 1 of this year,” he said.

Nicholson added that in upcoming years, they must provide a similar report annually on the city’s efforts to promote affordable housing.

The Santa Clara Planning Commission chose the following four strategies for 2020:

  • Rezone for density as necessary to ensure production of moderate income housing.
  • Allow for and reduce regulations for accessory dwelling units in residential zones.
  • Allow for higher densities in mixed-use zones, commercial centers or employment centers.
  • Implement zone incentives for low and moderate income units. 

This year, the city has taken numerous steps to begin implementing those strategies. For the first strategy, the city rezoned a number of properties for higher density to help promote production of affordable housing, Nicholson said.

This includes the Heritage Pointe Townhomes on Santa Clara Drive, which consists of 55 two-story town house units and future commercial housing, and the Black Desert project, which includes 298 acres in Santa Clara and another 300 acres in Ivins and St. George. The Santa Clara property includes a 200-unit project on 19 acres intended as rental property and designed to accommodate the needs of workforce housing. 

For the second strategy, the report references an approved amendment to the city zone code from January that allows accessory dwelling units to be detached, single-level units instead of attached units as the code previously stated. 

“I think we’ve met that strategy,” Nicholson said. “The state code said ‘reduce regulations’ for it, and that’s what we did – we reduced the regulations related to accessory dwelling units. So I think strategy No. 2 has been accomplished.”

Councilman Ben Shakespeare said Wednesday that he really appreciated what the change has done for his property. 

“I like it for when you think about you’re owner-occupied … you can charge a rate that probably isn’t market value because you own the place,” he said. 

For the third strategy, Nicholson referenced a recent code change the city made where density was previously limited to 12 units per acre. Now there is no limit, allowing applicants to come forward and propose a project with more than 12 units per acre. So far, nothing has been proposed, Nicholson said, so the city will have to wait to see the effects of that change. 

The city has not yet discussed any plans or amendments to accomplish the fourth strategy, but Nicholson said the city is interested in pursuing it. 

“Bottom line, we’ve met the state mandate,” he said. “We can send this report to the state and at least take care of this particular mandate.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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