Ferndale looking to ensure housing for residents of all income levels

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published January 1, 2018

 The city’s new inclusive housing policy will be for future development projects. This includes the Iron Ridge District, said Mayor Dave Coulter.

The city’s new inclusive housing policy will be for future development projects. This includes the Iron Ridge District, said Mayor Dave Coulter.

Rendering provided by the city of Ferndale

FERNDALE — The Ferndale City Council passed a housing policy that looks to ensure housing is affordable for residents at a variety of income levels.

Passed unanimously at the council’s Dec. 18 meeting, the idea behind inclusive housing is “a typical household should not spend more than 30 percent of its income on housing (rent or mortgage), because it limits resources for other needs, such as food, clothing, transportation, etc.,” according to city documents.

Community and Economic Development Director Jordan Twardy said the policy also addresses key parts of the city’s master plan and will deepen a partnership with the Ferndale Housing Commission.

“This is a start. The intent here with this is to plant a flag and allow us to have some enforceable guidelines that we can use with the current development proposals in the pipeline,” he said.

According to city documents, the inclusive housing policy is designed to encourage new housing developments to “incorporate units that are affordable to a variety of residents at a number of income levels.” The policy will apply to any proposed housing development with 25 or more rental units that includes city-owned or city-acquired land and requests tax incentives, including brownfield tax increment financing.

“All the developers that we’ve talked to … have been willing to incorporate affordable housing based on our negotiations,” Twardy said. “However, we like the idea of having things in writing that are enforceable.”

The documents also state that the city will allow for payment in lieu of inclusive housing for developments that are not able to meet the area median income parameters. 

“A dedicated payment in lieu of inclusive housing fund would be created (similar to the payment in lieu of parking fund) for the city in partnership with the Ferndale Housing Commission to create inclusive housing on other sites,” according to the documents. “The inclusive housing fund would be set aside for the express purposes of activities aimed at the provision of inclusive housing, including property acquisition, property demolition, property development, property marketing, property maintenance, property management, and rent or mortgage subsidy payments to qualifying individuals.”

Twardy said the thought behind this idea was that the city wanted another way to add affordable units throughout the city.

“We see it as an opportunity to partner with the Housing Commission as well and put some resources behind the cause,” he said.

With the passage of this policy, Twardy said the city now will look to phase two, which is engaging housing experts to further refine the policy as needed, but also help set metrics, such as what affordability means and what the targets are that they’re trying to achieve from year to year. Phase two will take place in the first half of 2018.

Mayor Pro Tem Melanie Piana said she appreciates all the thought that went into the policy, and that getting it right is critical, as the city needs something to help guide it with all the new proposed projects in development. She added that this will help city staff have conversations with developers about building for everybody.

“This is people’s lives and really, at the end of the day, for me, this is about taking care of the people who live in our community so that they can stay here in the community that they love,” she said.

“With all the new developments going on right now, everybody knows that their value’s going up, which is what we wanted after the financial crash. Everybody’s happy that their housing prices are going up, but there’s a tipping point where the rent starts going up as well,” Piana said.