The Work Force Housing Task Force formed after the repeal of inclusionary zoning finally finished its work and provided the City Council with a report full of recommendations. The most significant item on the list was a new sales (0.07 percent) or property tax (0.95 mills) that would raise $1 million a year for affordable housing. According to the Task Force 53 percent of survey respondents said they would support a tax.
However, the Council did not seem enthusiastic about putting a new tax recommendation on the ballot. Sarah Levison pointed out that a sales tax is regressive, meaning it affects lower wage earners the most. She also reminded the Task Force that the City is already putting a tax measure on the fall ballot to for wastewater treatment. The City’s current sales tax rate is 3.275 (Boulder’s is 3.41 percent and Loveland’s is 3.0 percent, just to give some perspective). None of the other Council members made specific comments regarding this proposal.
The Task Force report suggested that Longmont needs more rental housing. Consultants hired by the City to provide data to the Task Force noted that Longmont is lacking rental properties in all price ranges. However, the Task Force suggested that the City focus on rental units for lower income residents. As one representative put it, “We owe low wage earners a decent place to live.”
The report’s other recommendations are vague. For example, incentives were advised to encourage developers to build additional affordable units, but there were no specific ideas regarding what type of incentives should be applied.
The Council accepted the report but explained that does not mean all the recommendations will be adopted. Further study sessions will be held to “unpack” all the information. The Longmont Association of REALTORS® has offered to utilize its resources to help the City explore other workable affordable housing programs, but does not support a new tax to fund future programs.
According to Community Strategies Institute, which analyzed Longmont’s current housing situation, the City “has a substantial affordable housing inventory, which includes units owned by the Longmont Housing Authority, other nonprofit organizations, and private developers. In 2012, there were a total of 1,701 rent restricted rental units in Longmont. Of these, 468 have project based rental assistance (“rent assist”), allowing households who earn 50 percent or less of the area median income to pay 30 percent of their income for rent and utilities. These units serve a mix of families, seniors, and persons with disabilities. This total does not include transitional housing units.