Recommendations to amend subdivision codes to promote more affordable housing in Washington may be coming as soon as next month.
Washington Planning and Zoning Commission members this week continued to discuss code changes that could spur development of homes that would be more affordable for home buyers.
The movement started a number of months ago, but last November a coalition of developers, contractors and realtors made a presentation to the plan board proposing specific code amendments regarding the size of lots and street widths in new subdivisions, among other things.
This week, members took up the discussion again.
Shawn Mayall of S-K Contractors was one of several builders and developers who attended the meeting. He said advocates of the changes want to “come up with something that’s feasible for everyone.
“Right now, I can’t build a $180,000 home in Washington,” Mayall told the board. “Probably the cheapest I can do is $210,000,” given the current code provisions.
“We want to build affordable housing that looks good,” he remarked.
Mayall said builders want to be able to offer homes in the 1,300-to-1,500-square-foot ranges that people can afford.
But the current codes calling for larger lots and wider streets all figure into the higher cost.
“If we can build and sell $500,000 homes in Washington we also ought to be able to offer $180,000 homes,” remarked Tom Holdmeier, board chairman. “We need to be able to supply affordable housing.”
Mayor Sandy Lucy, board member, asked how soon could development of affordable homes begin if changes are made.
“Tomorrow,” replied Kurt Unnerstall, developer. “There’s so much demand right now.”
Councilman Greg Skornia, a board member, suggested residential developments with 7,500-square-foot lots, with the understanding that some lots in the development could be smaller given different conditions.
Currently, the minimum lot size is 10,000 square feet for new residential developments, but that adds to the higher cost of housing, developers and builders point out.
Earlier in the meeting, John Borgmann, board member representing the Washington Fire Department, made a presentation of the street widths allowed in developments in St. Louis County. While Washington requires a 35-foot-wide street from curb to curb, most other communities allow 26-foot-wide streets, he said.
“To me, it’s not as critical to have a 35-foot-wide street,” Borgmann said, adding that the narrower width does not hinder emergency vehicles yet it does tend to reduce speeding on those streets. “I think we can live with less,” he remarked.
Cameron Lueken, a spokesperson for developers and builders, pointed out that between 2003 and 2010, the city of Union, which has less strict subdivision requirements, issued 763 permits for new residential construction, compared to 419 in the city of Washington.
“The price range of subdivisions in Union has remained affordable while Washington went to the high end,” Unnerstall remarked. “Now we need to be more about affordable housing.”
Borgmann suggested that members consider the suggested changes and come back next month to reach a recommendation.