Rockland City Council to hold Inclusionary Housing workshop, Sept. 27

Mon, 09/27/2021 - 8:15am

    ROCKLAND — Rockland City Council will hold a special workshop, Monday, Sept. 27, starting at 5:30 p.m., via Zoom, to discuss Inclusionary Housing and its related zoning.

    Councilor Sarah Austin summed up the proposal as follows:

    The concept here is that for larger developments – housing developments of greater than six units, or hotel developments of more than 10 new rooms, which could be a new hotel or a hotel that was expanding – that they would be obligated to either provide additional housing units that would be workforce affordable rentals or purchase units on site as part of their development, offsite elsewhere in the community, or to contribute financially towards an affordable housing fund for the City – basically recognizing that there are consequences to those kinds of development.

    She said Portland has a similar hotel ordinance in place and,  “I think they put it pretty elegantly saying that new developments like that necessitate workers, and people to be able to help operate them, and they can help to offset some amount of the housing demand that their workforce need as part of that project. Or support the City in doing that in other places.”

    “Frankly, it’s likely to create relatively few units,” said Austin, during the Sept. 9, City Council agenda-setting meeting. “Right now there’s not massive projects that are on the table, but I think it’s a conversation worth having – to say that you know for the privilege of developing bigger projects here, we’d like you to acknowledge the housing situation locally, and help be a part of the solution to having affordable units be available to the people that need to work here to operate the things we need in the community.”

    Elements to discuss:

    Some communities discuss prioritizing who can have first access to the affordable units that might be developed. Sometimes they prioritize local residents – people already living in the community, like in the city of Rockland, or in Knox County. Or people that have been recently displaced. Sometimes they prioritize public workers such as City employees, fire and EMS workers, school district employees, things like that.

    “I think generally our housing situation is critical enough here that we know that there are dozens of people here who would need – and qualify – for workforce-affordable housing units...were they to be created.

    “This is something I’m really looking at because there is not a massive development looming at us yet. But we know that Rockland is a desirable community. And that those kinds of developments may very well be coming in our future, and that we ask the people who want to create things like that to participate in making sure we have a viable community around them.

    This is something that has been in practice in bigger cities for decades, and those communities have generally accepted that it only works in a hot housing market, which Rockland is currently experiencing.

    Said Councilor Ben Dorr, during the regular September council meeting: “We need a mandate on this. We need the permission from the public to be able to do all of the things that it’s going to take to try to give people an opportunity. This is about serving people who have so much less than the five of us up here. And I think that we need to be given permission by the public to do that work of trying to make our community better for the people that aren’t able to have a life in the city.”

    During the September 27 meeting, Council will also discuss a proposed Park and Ride parking lot considered for Rockland Street, as well as vote on Resolve #41: Appointment to Board of Assessment Review.