Housing for All’ Causing Issues

 

After debate and discussion that stretches back to at least 2012, the city is studying the Universal Design Ordinance’s final draft. The city already has some universal design requirements in place and is now set to shape these requirements into an ordinance. The ordinance aims to ensure equal access to housing for people born with mobility issues and people who develop these issues without significantly impacting housing costs and affordability.

In addition, the ordinance addresses “visitability” that would ensure that people with mobility issues are able to comfortably visit the homes of their friends and family members who may not have these issues.

Last year the city’s Community Development Department teamed up with the Planning Board and Commission on Disability Issues to hammer out the ordinance. 

The matter came before the Planning Board on June 27, and board members heard from both sides of the debate. As it was crafting the ordinance, the city reached out to the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area (BIA) for its input. 

In a letter to the city, Lisa Vorderbrueggen, BIA’s executive director for governmental affairs, pointed out that the ordinance as drafted would be the most stringent mandatory universal design regulation in the state of California.

Vorderbrueggen took issue with the aforementioned “visitability” issue. She stated that the ordinance’s requirement of “100 percent visitability” would add “tens of thousands of dollars in costs to constructing new homes at a time when housing unaffordability is already at crisis levels in the Bay Area.”

She also stated that this requirement would “also lead to fewer units being built as developers shift to the larger footprints necessary to accommodate the universal design components.”

Andrew Thomas, the city’s assistant community development director, responded by saying that the people of Alameda are “committed to ensuring that all new housing is constructed in a manner that ensures that each housing unit is adaptable for, and can accommodate, residents in each phase of their lives.”

Thomas said that he believes that the city and the building industry can work together to design and construct housing that accommodates these issues without raising construction costs.