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Exterior of multi-tenant housing building.

Opportunity Housing: Creation and Preservation

Many people want to live in Bloomington but can't afford to. In 2019 the City approved an ordinance focused on providing, maintaining and encouraging housing for all people.

"For many of Bloomington's workforce - including teachers, nurses and police officers - housing has become difficult to afford," Mayor Gene Winstead said. "We want people from all economic levels to be able to work and live in Bloomington, and this is just another way to do it."

Related documentation

More information about the ordinance and the background studies used to developed this ordinance are below: 

Adopted 2/25/19 City Council Ordinance

2/25/19 City Council Staff Report

Opportunity Housing Ordinance Presentation - February 14, 2019 PC

PDF icon Creating an Effective and Competitive Housing Ordinance for Bloomington.pdf

PDF icon Bloomington Nexus Study 11-09-2018.pdf

Full 2/14/19 Planning Commission agenda item available here: https://agendasuite.org/iip/bloomington/agendaitem/details/6510

Full 2/25/19 City Council agenda item available here:  https://agendasuite.org/iip/bloomington/agendaitem/details/6560 

Bloomington offers many housing choices for homeowners and renters, from high-end homes and apartments to options that are affordable to people with limited incomes.

What is affordable housing?

A common definition says that housing is “affordable” when a household pays no more than 30 percent of its annual income on housing, including utilities. Housing costs can vary widely from region to region, so affordability is often defined relative to a region's median income. In our region, the median income in 2018 is $90,400.

Bloomington has three types of affordable housing:

  • Naturally occurring affordable housing consists of apartments and homes that, because of their age and other factors, are priced at a point that is affordable to families and individuals with limited incomes.
  • Publicly subsidized housing includes units that receive some form of public assistance. The Bloomington HRA offers various programs to make housing affordable for those who are not adequately served by the private marketplace, including rental assistance, housing rehabilitation loans, first-time home buyer assistance and other programs. Visit the Bloomington HRA's webpage for more information.
  • Mixed-income developments that include both affordable and market rate housing units help provide a range of housing opportunities for working individuals and families.

Affordable housing is best achieved through mixed-income developments. These developments support economic stability within the community better than standalone, isolated developments. 

What are the benefits and challenges of affordable housing?

Affordable housing allows people to live close to job opportunities, schools, services and neighborhood amenities. By encouraging safe and affordable housing, Bloomington shows that it welcomes everyone, including those who will benefit most from affordable housing options.

Many people don't think about it, but affordable housing provides economic benefits to a community as well. Policies that encourage the creation and preservation of affordable housing benefit the local economy and contribute to the economic stability and prosperity of the community. 

Benefits

  • Job opportunities
    Construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing units provide jobs for many people, including architects, contractors and people in the construction trade. Local businesses that provide building materials and supplies also benefit from affordable housing projects.
  • Improved property usage and values
    Affordable housing programs aim to provide housing opportunities and options throughout the city, not in isolated neighborhoods defined by income. Maintaining existing affordable housing options and creating affordable housing within new developments tends to increase property values and stability in the surrounding neighborhoods. 
  • Household and workforce stability
    People who spend less on housing can afford to spend more on groceries, clothing, health care, and other necessities. They can save more for emergencies, major purchases like cars, and education. They are less likely to suffer the stress of being evicted from their homes because of problems paying the rent. Their households enjoy greater economic stability, and this often leads to greater job stability. Businesses benefit from a more dependable and stable work force with lower turnover and reduced costs from training new employees. 

Challenges

  • Tight housing market
    The rental housing market has become very competitive, with more families and individuals competing for fewer and fewer vacant apartments. The tight market has also spurred investors to purchase naturally occurring affordable housing properties, remodel and re-lease them at a higher rent amount, which may displace the current residents. While investment in these units is encouraged, balancing investment in the property with limiting the displacement of the existing residents is key.
  • Lack of land
    Bloomington is fully developed, with little land remaining for new housing development. To meet future housing demand, Bloomington will need to maintain the quality of its older housing stock, seek out opportunities to create new housing that expands lifestyle choices, and ensure that people of all income levels have opportunities to live here.

What is the City doing to address affordable housing concerns?

Affordable housing is both an economic issue and a social issue. Addressing affordable housing requires a flexible and comprehensive approach. A one-size-fits-all approach rarely works.

Affordable housing work group

Over the past two years, a work group (housing advocates, owners/managers of rental properties, renters, HRA Commission members, City Council members, City staff and other stakeholders) has been meeting to discuss how to preserve and create affordable housing in Bloomington. Discussions have focused almost entirely on affordable rental housing.

The workgroup has identified a number of strategies for the City to consider, taking into account the amount of City resources required and the amount of influence the City has over each strategy.

Near-term strategies

Council has directed staff to identify strategies that can be readily implemented without a lot of additional resources, as well as strategies requiring additional (potentially outside) resources and time that could be considered in the future.

Near-term strategies include:

  • An affordable housing ordinance

This ordinance would require developers of new housing and substantial housing rehabilitation projects to provide a minimum number of affordable units. The ordinance will define several incentives to add affordable units, such as density bonuses, housing tax increment financing and expedited reviews, among other incentives. The ordinance is intended to be comprehensive in scope and would help increase the supply of affordable housing units throughout the city.

A draft version of the ordinance will be presented to the City Council on Monday, February 25th at 7:00 pm at City Council Chambers. This will be a public hearing and comments on the ordinance are encouraged.

Bloomington Opportunity Housing Ordinance Overview

Creating an Effective and Competitive Housing Ordinance 

  • A fair housing policy

    Our community is changing. It continues to become more ethnically and racially diverse, with people of color, immigrant families, and people with disabilities. This increases the likelihood of fair housing issues emerging in the community. With a fair housing policy in place, the City of Bloomington will better serve its residents by proactively addressing fair housing issues should they occur in the community.

    At their August 6, 2018 meeting, the Bloomington City Council adopted a Fair Housing policy. This policy declares the City’s commitment to fair housing and supports opportunities to increase housing choices for all Bloomington residents. Below is a video summary and link to the adopted policy. 

City of Bloomington Fair Housing Policy

  • A 90-day tenant protection ordinance

    Also at their August 6, 2018 meeting, the City Council adopted an ordinance that provides protections for existing residents when a sale of a rental property occurs. The protections include a 90-day period limiting rent increases, preventing non-renewal of leases without cause, and a requirement to provide relocation assistance upon failure to comply with the ordinance.

    90-Day Tenant Protection Ordinance 

  • Evaluation of zoning requirements and restrictions

    Staff will review the City’s current zoning and development requirements and restrictions. This strategy seeks to identify where code modifications are needed to eliminate barriers that may unintentionally prevent the creation of affordable housing.

More information

  • For residents
  • For developers
  • For investors