Changes could be coming soon to the UDC.
City to discuss new direction for Bozeman housing policy
By Nora Shelly Chronicle Staff Writer Feb 27, 2022
With changes to state law nixing a key part of its affordable housing strategy and an ever-intensifying market, Bozeman officials are planning to consider an overhaul of the city’s housing policies next week.
City commissioners on Tuesday will discuss a number of suggested changes to Bozeman’s housing strategies, including ways to incentivize affordable housing, how staff could grant departures from code standards to developers and short-term changes to the unified development code.
The commission will have a work session on the issue, meaning they will just offer direction to city staff on how to move forward and not make any formal or final decisions.David Fine, the city’s economic development manager for housing and development, said Friday that the policy changes began with a report done last year by Clarion Associates on the city’s unified development code and affordable housing ordinance.
The city used to have an inclusionary zoning policy, which required developers to provide a portion of units at an affordable price, or pay cash-in-lieu to the city.
The Montana Legislature passed a bill in 2021 to ban the practice in the state.“The city’s previous housing work was heavily reliant on inclusionary zoning,” Fine said. “We’re making a major transition in our housing program to work from going from an approach of requiring affordability, which is no longer allowed, to incentivizing affordability, which is currently allowed under state law.”
The city is considering completely replacing the affordable housing ordinance to one that emphasizes voluntary use of incentives for density bonuses, like smaller lot sizes, reduced parking requirements and height bonuses.
Commissioners will also discuss suggestions Clarion made for allowing departures from the city’s development standards, to “allow market rate developments to be completed more affordably.”Departures could include things like being flexible with building height, lot coverage parking and setback requirements.
Another suggested change commissioners will consider is adjusting the planned unit development process to be more focused on affordability, sustainability and historic preservation.The planned unit development process, or PUD, is an existing structure that “allows a developer to propose substantially different standards in exchange for public benefits.”
The city is also working on a larger overhaul of the unified development code which will take some time, but staff has compiled a recommended list for changes that can be made in the short term.The presentation materials provided in the commission’s agenda packet also include a reality check that much of what makes housing unaffordable in Bozeman is beyond the control of the commission.
“We are facing incredibly high prices in the construction of housing, and that is due to many factors beyond our control,” Fine said. “The (Unified Development Code) is one place where there are modest savings through density bonuses and other tools that could be applied to projects, but we don’t have any control over the price of land or the price of building materials or the price of labor, and those are all much larger drivers of affordability than our code.”