3/15/2022 meeting summary: affordable housing and parking reform

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We had a City Council meeting Tuesday, March 15, 2022 and below are some exciting updates!
 
1. We voted to make outdoor dining permanent. During the onset of COVID, we allowed private businesses to extend into streets and sidewalks to setup tables for dining and drinks. This change showed us that there are better uses of or public spaces, and in October 2021, we instructed staff to come up with the necessary changes to city code to enable a permanent streetery program. The permanent program begins April 1, 2022.
 
2. We approved $4 million in Affordable Housing Bond Funds for preservation of affordable housing near transit. In 2020, voters passed an $80 million Affordable Housing bond. $16 million of the bond proceeds were designated for transit-oriented site acquisition; of the $16 million, $12 million was directed towards site acquisitions for development of new affordable housing and $4 million was to remain for preservation of naturally occurring affordable housing near transit. At the meeting this week, we entered into a loan agreement with Self-Help Ventures Fund (SHVF) for this purpose.
 
We continue to work to address housing affordability and Affordable Housing through zoning reform and direct investments. At our meeting on February 15, we approved the rezoning of 3 city-owned lots near Dix Park for development of more Affordable Housing rentals with the help of low-income tax credits or by leasing the land to an affordable housing developer.
 
3. We approved a text change to eliminate parking minimums and establish parking maximums and mitigation citywide. The intent of this text change was to address the effects of minimum vehicle parking requirements, which incentivize driving, contribute to carbon emissions, add to the cost of housing, and increase the costs of goods and services by placing burdens on business owners.
 
It’s important to understand that eliminating parking minimums doesn’t eliminate parking; it eliminates the mandate on how much parking must be built. Most projects were constructing more parking than was previously required anyway, and this change addresses that issue by establishing parking maximums and mitigations too, basically stating that if you build more parking than the maximum you must mitigate the effects by either putting the parking in a deck, providing environmental protections, and spaces for electric vehicles.
 
There’s a great deal of literature on parking minimums and why eliminating parking minimums was such a huge leap forward for Raleigh; here are a few I suggest reading if you want to learn more:
 
 
4. At our work session, we instructed staff to move forward with finding developers for city-owned surface parking lots near the Duke Energy Center for Performing Arts and Raleigh Convention Center. We started this process in early 2020 and canceled the efforts when COVID hit. I wrote about it here. We’re ready to start it again, with one of the surface lots intended to serve as a new, full service convention center hotel and the other surface lot intended to provide housing and retail.
 
We learned a few things at the work session, specifically that our convention center loses $100 million worth of business investment due to lack of hotel rooms. Compared to our peer cities, we have 900 hotel rooms walkable to the convention center, Austin has more than 4,000, and the average is 2,500. This information is embarrassing, and if we want to compete for these conventions we must work to address this issue. The other thing we learned throughout COVID is that the Fayetteville Street corridor has relied too heavily on office and government spaces, and more people living in this area will help it become more lively and inviting. I will keep you updated on these efforts.
 
Our next regular City Council meetings are Tuesday, April 5, 2022 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.
 
jonathan.melton@raleighnc.gov

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