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City discusses housing affordability proposals

Alex Doty • Nov 21, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Grand Haven City Council has taken the first step toward taking a harder look at the issue of affordable housing within the community.

Councilman Josh Brugger brought forward a resolution Monday night that, if approved, would set up a task force to address the issue of housing affordability in the city.

"I am excited to bring this up," he said. "I think it has been 12 straight meetings that I have talked about affordable housing. I think having affordable housing is huge."

The task force proposed by Brugger would be comprised of two members of City Council, two members of the city’s Planning Commission, two members of the community at-large, the city manager and community development manager, and two additional members recommended by the city manager and agreed upon by the task force.

The panel would be tasked with the review of the community’s zoning rules within neighborhood districts and making recommendations to the Planning Commission for near-term (6-12 months) and long-term (12 months or more) Zoning Ordinance amendments to address housing affordability.

"I think one of the biggest road blocks we have going forward is our Zoning Ordinance and the way it's structured," Brugger said. "I think there's some incongruities in our Zoning Ordinance that we could make some changes on real quick."

Brugger’s housing affordability proposal wasn’t the only one discussed by council Monday night. Councilman Bob Monetza, who supported Brugger's initiative in order to get it on Monday night's agenda, brought forth an alternative resolution to study affordable housing.

"I think that there needs to be a broader, more holistic approach," Monetza said of his proposal. “It wasn’t my intention to minimize this or throw a monkey wrench into this.”

Monetza’s resolution, while similar to Brugger’s, called for an ad-hoc committee to review options for economic development, planning and Zoning Ordinance amendments, planned residential development infrastructure, and any other direction to increase available housing options in the city.

The revised plan calls the committee to be, at minimum, made of two members of City Council, two members of the city’s Planning Commission, the city manager and community development manager or her representative, 2-4 members of the community at large, and two additional members recommended by the city manager and agreed upon by the committee. The committee would be asked to report near- and long-term changes to ordinances and policies.

With the two similar, but slightly different, proposals on the table Monday night, council voted 4-1 to hold off on any action on the topic until after its annual goal-setting meeting on Nov. 27, where it’s likely that the city will make addressing housing affordability one of its priorities for the upcoming year. The two resolutions will instead likely be brought up for a vote at the Dec. 4 council meeting.

Brugger, who voted against the postponement in a symbolic vote, said that while he is frustrated with the delay in the establishment of a task force, he also noted that he is also understanding of having the topic be brought back following the goal-setting session.

Councilman Mike Fritz commended the work of Brugger and Monetza in addressing the topic of affordable housing, and said the two proposals are “definitely the right direction.”

“We’re not quite sure what the final wording is going to be,” Fritz said. “You don’t want to rush right into it.”

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