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Affordable housing

Preserving and creating affordable housing

The City Council approved an opportunity housing ordinance on February 25. To draft the ordinance, the City engaged developers, nonprofits, trade associations and community stakeholders to preserve and create new affordable housing.

The ordinance includes an innovative approach to development, providing flexibility and a better partnership model for developers. It requires that new housing developments of 20 units or more include at least nine percent affordable units. Developers have flexible options to comply with this requirement to minimize the impact. 

Developers also have access to a variety of flexibility measures, incentives, and tools to apply to the project, such as reduced parking requirements and development fee waivers. The City will not require developers to use specific tools or incentives. Developers will have their choice of options as part of their own development analysis as they proceed through the City’s development process. Developers will not have to seek City Council approval on the use of the tools and incentives.

An “affordable unit” is affordable to a family of four earning 30 – 60 percent of the region’s area median income of $94,000 as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

Having sufficient affordable housing opportunities in Bloomington not only benefits renters and homeowners, it helps businesses, too. Mayor Gene Winstead said that to ensure local employers have access to a strong workforce—from manufacturing to office or hospitality workers—there must be stable, affordable places for employees to live nearby.

“What we’re finding is that for many in Bloomington’s work force—including teachers, nurses and police officers—housing has become difficult to afford,” Mayor Winstead said. “We want people from all economic levels to be able to work and live here, and this is just another way to do it.”

The ordinance also helps provide housing stability for renters and tenant stability for property owners. It allows tenants who qualify for an affordable unit to grow their income up to 140 percent in a five-year period without needing to leave when they initially rise above the income limit. 

“I think Bloomington is at the forefront with this ordinance,” said Blake Hopkins, vice president of housing development at Aeon, a nonprofit developer. “This is the most comprehensive affordable housing package that we’ve seen. I think it will have a real impact on the community.”