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September 22, 2023

Council takes first step to approve inclusionary zoning

Ordinance would require projects to include affordable

by COREY YOUNG – Staff Writer
The Windsor Town Council last week took the first steps toward
the formation of an “inclusionary housing” requirement designed to
spur development of affordable homes for town residents.
An inclusionary ordinance would require most new housing
projects in the town to include a certain percentage of homes set
aside for lower-income buyers.
A council majority indicated it was comfortable with at least 10
percent of the houses in new development projects being reserved
for affordable housing. Certain types of developments could be
exempt from that requirement, including previously approved
projects, commercial projects and second dwelling units, also
called granny units.
There was also support on the council to exempt projects of
fewer than 10 units.
In addition, if a project of more than 10 units provides both
market-rate and affordable homes, the inclusionary requirements
should apply to the total number of market-rate homes only, the
council indicated.
Councilmembers said they didn’t want to penalize builders who
were already providing housing for moderate-income buyers and
Orrin Thiessen, who is building Windsor’s new downtown, said he
supports inclusionary housing but any ordinance should not harm the
ability to create moderate-income homes (targeted toward families
of four making less than $76,050 a year).
“I’m concerned about how it’s going to affect our ability to
build moderate-income housing,” he said. He is building 200 housing
units in downtown Windsor priced between $250,000 and $300,000. “I
would just hate to get punished for doing that,” said Thiessen. “If
you’re building expensive homes, the load should be more on those
The inclusionary requirement would be designed to create more
housing for very low-income to moderate-income residents.
“Very-low” income in Sonoma County is defined by the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development as a family of four
making less than half of the area’s median income, which was
$63,400 for the year 2002. “Low income” refers to a family of four
making between 50 and 80 percent of that amount, while “moderate
income” is between 80 and 120 percent.
Very low-income families make less than $31,700 a year;
low-income families, less than $50,700; and moderate-income
families, less than $76,060.
Most of the homes built in Windsor over the past few years have
been for above-moderate buyers, according to planning department
“We’re probably more out of balance than any other city in
Sonoma County,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Deborah Fudge, who said she
supports an inclusionary ordinance.
Fudge also joined fellow councilmembers Lynn Morehouse and Mayor
Steve Scott in opposing the option of an “in-lieu fee,” where
developers would contribute money to a town housing fund instead of
building the actual affordable homes.
“We need the housing on the ground,” she said. Councilmembers
Sam Salmon and Steve Allen said a “sliding scale” in-lieu fee
should be studied.
The planning department will present the council with a policy
statement outlining the specific inclusionary requirements before
the town enacts a final ordinance. A draft ordinance will also by
reviewed by the Planning Commission.


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