The inclusionary zoning debate began airing in the Common Council Tuesday, leaving no clear-cut vision of where city leaders are headed — on an issue all agreed needs to be addressed.
Sam Magavern, executive director of the Partnership for the Public Good, addressed the Council's Legislation Committee, making a case for inclusionary zoning.
He offered a sample bill that would require at least 30 percent of apartments to be set aside for lower-income residents, in market-rate buildings with 10 or more units.
Magavern's suggestion set off a Council discussion that illustrated the concern lawmakers have for low-income families struggling to find housing — and their range of opinions on inclusionary zoning as a possible solution.
The discussion came days after the administration of Mayor Byron W. Brown released a consultant's report which supports inclusionary zoning, but only if it is voluntary, and if the city government offsets any developer costs associated with the program.
North District Councilman Joseph Golombek Tuesday said he's against setting the type of mandatory inclusionary goals Magavern proposed.
"I would not support 30 percent," Golombek said.
"I've met with development people," Golombek said. "They told me, even 10 percent, they are unable to do certain projects. ... Finally, some projects are coming into the North District. It will kill development for much of my district."
Rather than supporting an inclusionary zoning plan that leads to rental units, Golombek said, he'd prefer to see Habitat for Humanity-style projects that help individuals become homeowners.
"The goal should be to make more people homeowners," Golombek said.
University District Councilman Rasheed N.C. Wyatt said the public supports inclusionary zoning, and he believes the Council should support what the public requested.
"The people came and spoke on the importance of inclusionary zoning. That is what the people asked for. Loud and clear. That is what we should deliver," he said. "Not to, is saying to the community, what you say is not important. I don't want to be a part of that."
Wyatt said the 30 percent that Magavern proposed is high, but that the actual percentage should be negotiated.
The Council, he said, needs to see actual numbers on developer costs and profits.
"It can be done," Wyatt said of inclusionary zoning.
Niagara Councilman David A. Rivera said the study recently completed for the city is a starting point.
Rivera said he'd like to a see a committee — representing the city, the development community, residents and housing advocates — assembled to develop a workable inclusionary zoning program.
Lovejoy Councilman Richard A. Fontana expressed concern the consultant's study suggested the city, rather than developers, absorb any costs associated with inclusionary zoning.
"There's no room in the city budget to pay for this," he said.
But Rivera said the consultants didn't necessarily mean additional money from the city. It could mean more efficient use of how the city now spends housing dollars, Rivera said.
"The question is, 'Is there state money? Federal money?' " Fillmore District Councilman David A. Franczyk said.
Delaware Councilman Joel P. Feroleto said he supports the concept of inclusionary zoning, but that his district is pretty much built up.
Aside from the former Children's Hospital building on Bryant Street, Feroleto said, he's not aware of any property available to develop.
"I don't see much more happening on Elmwood or Hertel," he said, referring to the Elmwood and Hertel avenue corridors — two of the areas the city's consultant suggested would benefit from inclusionary zoning.