The City of Hollister is working on an inclusionary housing ordinance that could require future residential developers to make up to 20% of their projects affordable under state guidelines.
A draft ordinance, produced under the council’s previous direction, was presented at the May 1 council meeting. The draft would require the 20% affordable housing minimum, though city staff and council members noted that other cities and counties have adopted ordinances with thresholds as low as 15%.
After a tense discussion in which Council member Rolan Resendiz accused his colleagues of being “funded by developers,” the council voted 3-1 to table the adoption of an inclusionary housing ordinance until more public meetings about the issue can be held. That motion was made by Council member Tim Burns, with an amendment by Mayor Mia Casey.
Resendiz voted against the motion. Council member Rick Perez was absent from the May 1 meeting.
Resendiz suggested the city has delayed too long in adopting a universal affordable housing requirement for developers in the city limits.
“Developers have been coming here for years and making a ton of money building in a way that is highly irresponsible,” Resendiz said. “Our streets are congested. Our schools are jam packed. Our own residents cannot afford to live or to buy in the City of Hollister. This is something that should have been done years ago.”
Casey and other council members thought the ordinance needed more discussion, and worried that 20% might be so high that it discourages developers from building in Hollister at all. Citing a study from the Institute for Local Government, Casey said she thinks a lower requirement such as 15% is “more reasonable.”
Casey’s concern is that a higher required rate of affordable housing could be a deterrent for developers to build any new housing in Hollister.
“I do want an inclusionary housing ordinance, I just want it set at more reasonable levels,” Casey said.
The adoption of a 20% inclusionary housing ordinance is part of the city’s 2040 General Plan Update. City officials have previously discussed ways to prioritize Hollister’s affordable housing stock and facilitate the building of more very low-income, low-income and moderate-income housing, according to city staff.
An inclusionary housing ordinance that would require developers to build a percentage of affordable units was an option discussed by city officials. Following a previous community outreach meeting in January about the 20% proposal from city staff and a unanimous recommendation by the city’s planning commission at a March meeting, staff recommended the council adopt the ordinance on May 1.
“The purpose of this inclusionary housing ordinance is to enhance the public welfare by facilitating the development of housing affordable to households of very-low, low, and moderate income, and to ensure the utilization of developable land in the City of Hollister is compatible with state and local housing policies,” says a city staff report.
The city has been consulting with the private urban planning firm PlaceWorks to draft the 20% inclusionary housing ordinance and conduct a feasibility study of the proposal. The feasibility study determined that a 20% affordable housing requirement would not pencil out in the developers’ favor in most scenarios, unless developers request increased density allowances of up to 55%.
During the May 1 discussion, Casey and Mayor Pro Tem Dolores Morales attempted to silence Resendiz when he said there are “politics at play” and suggested they had accepted campaign funds from housing developers and their proponents. Casey called a “point of order” when Resendiz brought up campaign financing, and halted the meeting for a five-minute recess. Morales called Resendiz a “liar.”
In a May 5 letter to the media, Casey said she felt the proposed ordinance and its potential impact on city infrastructure and development overall had not been thoroughly researched. Casey also noted that other nearby communities—including San Benito County, City of Gilroy and City of Morgan Hill—had adopted a lower 15% affordable housing requirement.
Casey also suggested she may schedule “disciplinary hearings” for Resendiz if he continues to criticize other council members.
“None of us wants to have disciplinary hearings, but I will do what is necessary to keep order at meetings,” Casey wrote in the May 5 letter. “And I know the community does not want to see Hollister council meetings return to the dysfunctional state of past years. The days of creating drama, division and negativity must give way for positive change to occur. Respecting each other despite differing views is essential for an effective city council.”