The Annapolis City Council is taking comments tonight on a bill that seeks to improve access to affordable housing for those who have traditionally been priced out of living in the city where they have their jobs-Workforce Housing.
First Ward Alderwoman Elly Tierney included an excerpt of the workforce development staff on the legislation in her email to constituents:
In today’s Annapolis, Workforce Housing is realized in essentially two ways. Housing for low-income households earning below 60% AMI is almost always developed using Low Income Housing Tax Credits provided by the State of Maryland, while housing for households earning between 60% and 120% AMI is developed conventionally as market-rate housing with no subsidies available. The ordinance would better enable both of these scenarios, which at present are extremely difficult to implement due to zoning restrictions that limit density combined with the high cost of land in Annapolis. The cost of the land alone dictates that the only way to deliver homes affordable to low and moderate-income households is generally through some form of multifamily development. Yet, Annapolis’ zoning restrictions have limited multifamily development over the last ten years to only 93 new units, only about two-thirds of which are attainable to low and moderate-income families. During the same period, Annapolis added 522 single-family homes, the large majority of which are unattainable to low and moderate-income families. With its constrained geography and inability to expand, rapidly escalating land values and predominance of single-family zoning, the city has limited tools for creating housing that is affordable to low and middle-income households. Zoning reform to incentivize the infill development of underutilized properties is one of the only means to create the diversity of housing options needed to address the issue. This ordinance is modeled from a similar ordinance created by Anne Arundel County in 2020 but tailored to amend Annapolis’ existing zoning requirements in the most straightforward and expedient way. Rather than establishing or dramatically amending a specific zoning district which is a more complicated legislative process, the ordinance creates a new use, Workforce Housing, that would be permitted subject to standards in almost all of the city’s existing zoning districts.
The city lawmaker, in the same newsletter, also posted about housing prices in her own Ward:
"In Ward One, specifically downtown, the market has dictated that short-term rentals are a viable investment option, and worse, it has raised the housing market in spite of the economic policies to slow it down. How? Because we (the City) allowed it. So regardless of the intention of this bill, those prices will continue to be exclusionary to an extreme - meaning not only will they remain high but continue to be an investment opportunity. This bill won't help unless we have a specific developer who seeks to invest in long-term housing at affordable rates, including short-term rentals. The bill allows that opportunity without 'spot zoning,' and again, all standards, such as height, bulk, and HPC review, etc., must be met. Maybe there is such an investor out there? Such applications can be seen in this attachment to the Staff report - e.g., duplexes etc., in Ward One, some that already exist.
Spa Road is an available 'site,' but with all the environmental and stormwater regulations that a developer must meet, including remediation, workforce housing would be difficult unless some other income for the developer is introduced. This bill would appeal to such developers.
There is an opportunity on West Street, currently zoned MX (mixed use), where, post-pandemic, we are seeing a lot of vacancies. An example of such a development is at the corner of Chinquapin and West Street. Commercial is introduced at the storefront level to provide additional revenue for the developer, offsetting the housing cost.
The legislation is short in that it simply allows this use in zones that previously excluded it subject to standards. It does not reiterate all of those standards, but based on the public comment I am hearing, it may need to do so. Apologies for the exaggeration, but this is not a carte blanche for a bulldozer to arrive in your backyard. We have rigid environmental and stormwater controls and residential conservation standards that must be met. We have a public process in any site development.
But more importantly, this is about 'opportunity.' We continue to be a divided City with subsidized housing provided in pockets and isolation. There is no 'middle ground,' e.g. the term 'missing middle. Single-family home Owners will continue to carry the burden of our increasing city costs unless we grow and offer opportunities for our workforce, including our own Police, Fire, and Emergency personnel."
Photo courtesy of the Downtown Annapolis from 2020 - Main Street.