The City Council will hear the Housing Commission’s proposal for managing the city’s affordable housing fund over the next year, a plan that commission officials claim could put developer fees to better use.

A key provision in the affordable housing proposal for the 2007 fiscal year is to provide the city with flexibility for locating affordable housing projects.

Under the current policy, the city can only use in-lieu fees that are collected on development projects in a certain specified planning area for building affordable homes within that same area. The restriction was put in place in order to create “balanced communities” so that affordable projects would be built throughout the city and not just in certain neighborhoods.

Because many small pots of money exist around the city as a result of the restriction, Housing Commission policy advisor Todd Phillips said that it’s more difficult to pool together the money that is needed to build affordable units.

The commission is proposing that the fees be used to build projects within a radius of three miles of the planning area, as long as the project remains within the same City Council district.

Richard Lawrence, co-chairman of the Affordable Housing Coalition of San Diego County, said he likes the proposed balance between keeping the in-lieu fees in neighborhoods nearby while also allowing adjacent community planning areas to join their money together.

“The way we now distribute in-lieu fees by piddling them out into small little pots, it makes it so there’s no incentive to build anything,” he said. “Some larger designation is absolutely needed.”

Councilwoman Toni Atkins, a vocal backer of the affordable housing requirement, said she was undecided on how she would vote on the change. She said she was concerned that giving a three-mile cushion could lead to more concessions when the goal is ultimately to keep affordable units as close to market-rate units as possible.

Of the 53 planning areas in San Diego, 21 have not collected a dime in affordable housing fees since the city started charging developers for not including price-restricted units on the site of their housing developments.

You can read the Housing Commission’s proposal here.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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