DALLAS — The Dallas City Council suggested several revisions and wording changes to the city’s Housing Needs Analysis during a Feb. 18 workshop meeting.
The meeting was held after councilors stated they had questions on the final product when it was brought to the council for final approval. Most of the revisions consist of wording changes, but councilors have suggested some sections of the document be removed.
The changes concern sections of the HNA on publicly assisted housing; location of certain types of housing; incentives for providing low-income housing; and the city’s plan to rezone 22 acres of residential low-density land to medium density to reconcile a deficit in that type of land within city limits.
Publicly assisted housing
In the section of the HNA addressing publicly assisted housing, a preamble to a list of directives states: “to provide assistance to low- and moderate-income renter and homeowners, the city shall:”
Members of the council suggested that wording be changed from “shall” to “should.” That would change the nature of the statement from mandatory to a priority.
Scott Whyte, the city’s planning director, said that change is possible.
“Publicly assisted housing is a needed housing type, so I would definitely encourage council to keep polices in there, but I don’t see a problem with changing that to ‘should,’” Whyte said.
Councilor Michael Schilling suggested that words regarding the location of multi-family housing stating that medium-density housing, such as duplexes, townhomes and fourplexs, “should be located within a quarter mile of employment, retail and service centers” should read “shall be located.”
He said he preferred that wording so the city stays consistent on where it places that type of housing.
Additionally, Councilor Jennie Rummell asked that provisions suggesting that the production of affordable housing be linked to the amount of market-rate housing and expanding housing types allowed in low-density residential be removed.
Incentive for building affordable housing
Councilors suggested provisions implementing an affordable housing excise tax and tax abatement program be removed.
“I know at the last meeting, there was some concern about the excise tax. I think that was specifically mentioned. These are some things that cities have implemented,” Whyte said. “The excise tax is in Bend and Newport. The tax abatement program, there are some cities that implement that. It’s ‘should,’ so it’s soft for all of these.”
Councilor Jackie Lawson wanted both provisions removed.
Whyte said that the city has more need for low-income housing than capacity.
“We have quite a demand for section 8 housing with vouchers,” Whyte said. “There are more vouchers available as a community than we have housing available to accept those vouchers.
Lawson said that wording before a list of possible incentives for building affordable housing should read “may” instead of “should.” With the change it would say: “To help encourage to incentivize the construction of affordable housing, the city may consider the following:”
She suggested the same wording change to provisions encouraging development of second-story housing in downtown commercial buildings. The revised wording would read: “… the city may encourage development of additional market rate apartments by considering the following policy: Encouraging upper-level redevelopment and conversions in downtown through financial assistance programs, such as use of urban renewal fund as loans.”
The council also discussed a new policy in the HNA regarding transitional housing. The committee that helped draft the HNA introduced the policy that would create a process to streamline the creation of transitional housing, which could include housing for people being released from jail or prison or shelters.
The new provision reads: “Encourage the development code recognizes transitional housing that provides temporary housing together with government and community assistance programs.”
Lawson asked how including the statement benefited the city.
Whyte, and city attorney Lane Shetterly said that such a provision isn’t mandatory. However, Whyte said there’s a bill aiming to address homelessness before the Oregon Legislature this short session that could change that. Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek introduced the bill that would mandate streamlining building shelters and transitional housing.
Shetterly said the provision ensures that the development code includes a process for approving transitional housing.
“That would direct the development code be amended to create some sort of a standards and process specific to transitional housing,” he said.
Transitional housing facilities in Dallas have been approved through a conditional use permit application brought before the city’s planning commission in the past, Whyte said. This would create a separate process for approving them.
Lawson asked if the city needed to consider preparing for what the legislation could mandate in the future.
“I don’t know how much traction that will have, but we are watching it, we are tracking it,” Whyte said “We will see what happens, and we’ll keep the council and the planning commission advised of that.”
Shetterly suggested the proposed changes be drafted by staff, along with a report summarizing them to be reviewed at a public hearing. He said each change then could be voted on separately by the council.
City manager Brian Latta said in the future, large projects such as the HNA will be subject to a workshop meeting to answer all questions before they go to the adoption phase.
“The plan will be, before we have a public hearing on an item, to have a workshop in advance of the public hearing of the city council to make sure you have time to be able to digest all the information in a setting like this,” he said. “You can ask all these questions and get answers to them ahead of the public hearing, and I think that will help facilitate better discussion and a better product.”