Dear Mayor and City Council,
As we start a new year, it is typical to make resolutions for self-betterment and better times in the upcoming year. I am no different. However my resolutions are for the Mayor and Council as we move forward in 2022.
On behalf of the citizens of Raleigh, my resolutions are simple.
My wish is that you become more attentive to the voices of the public, listen with earnest interest, respond to emails and other inquiries and reach out to residents on a regular basis. The door is always open to CAC meetings to assist in this endeavor.
Susan Maruyama made a similar request at the last City Council meeting. She suggested that you use your power to negotiate with developers for the betterment of the residents of Raleigh. This is the core reason that you were elected – to represent the citizens of Raleigh to the best of your abilities.
Her request was not novel but it was something that has been lost in your last two years in office. As a refresher, her primary request was as follows:
Use the powerful tool of negotiation to get developers to commit to conditions that will guarantee community benefits before the rezoning request is approved. This is when you have leverage – use it for the good of the people and our city.
Her presentation was very clear and heartfelt for a positive 2022.
After Susan Maruyama spoke, my wishes and those of the residents of Raleigh were dashed! The Mayor’s response was simple as well: “We are bound by State law from using conditional zoning for affordable housing to approve or disapprove development requests.” I guess the Mayor missed the point of the presentation as provided by Susan Maruyama.
For the Mayor and Council benefit, previous advice from the City attorney’s staff was provided to planning for this very subject:
With respect to affordable housing conditions, the City recently passed a text amendment to make it clear that conditions relating to affordable housing may be offered by the applicant and accepted by the City in appropriate cases. To assist applicants who wish to offer an affordable housing condition, City staff drafted potential language and terms, which applicants may wish to consider and include when drafting their condition. The City’s potential language includes information regarding the level of affordability (“AMI”), the duration of time the affordable units will be available, and the number or percentage of affordable units that will be provided. The City’s suggested language is intended to provide a framework to assist applicants; however, the actual language and terms of each affordable housing condition will vary on a case-by-case basis.
This flexibility has been used in at least a half dozen cases since 2019, including the highly publicized rezoning projects, Z-3-19 (Smokey Hollow) and Z-13-20 (Downtown South). While these cases are small in number as compared to the hundreds of cases over the same time period, they demonstrate that developer conditions for affordable housing can be negotiated with the developer, while maintaining the spirit of the State law.
Please consider Susan Maruyama’s request as we move forward in 2022. Affordable Housing was supported by the voters of Raleigh in the form of a bond. It was a major accomplishment for the Mayor and Council. Now find a way to move forward with a policy to support the incorporation of affordable housing, whether by bonuses as outlined in the Midtown – Saint Albans Area plan or by negotiation, as suggested by Susan Maruyama. Without your attention, Midtown alone will lose approximately 1000 units of affordable housing through rezoning in the upcoming year with no planned alternative for the inhabitants of those units.
Larry Helfant is a longtime Midtown Raleigh resident.