Affordable housing at heart of debate during council meeting
A proposed change in a subsection of the city's housing code to no longer require full basements for some dwellings sparked debate at the Hastings City Council meeting Tuesday.
“I just don't agree with it,” Councilman Don Bowers said of the planning commission's proposed ordinance change that would allow some dwellings in the city to be constructed on slab foundations.
“What is it – another couple thousand, another $2,500, for a basement? And when you go to sell the dag-gone thing, what are you going to do? You're not going to get a lot of money out of it....You might as well put a tent on it.”
“I'm not laughing at you, Don,” Mayor Dave Tossava said as he asked for a response from the Planning Commission.
“I don't care if you do!” Bowers said, smiling.
“I'm just chuckling,” Tossava replied, then he turned to Planning Commission Chairman David Hatfield, who was in the audience, and asked him to address the issue.
Hatfield said there has been a great deal of discussion in the community about the need for more housing and, even more importantly, the need for more affordable housing.
“Any number of issues that have been suggested for the planning commission to consider,” he said. “We chose to take this one first because we have had several people appear before the commission and make comments regarding the expense of putting full basements in.”
Hatfield disagreed with Bowers on the estimated cost of a full basement.
“Don, I think, based on what we heard, the number is considerably more than $2,500.”
Bowers said that $2,500 was the amount that had been noted.
Hatfield replied that he didn't recall that number.
“The builders that have appeared in front of us have generally been anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000, depending on the size of the structure. ...I wouldn't personally want a house without a basement,” he noted, “but, for other people, where price is the ultimate consideration,...we think that's a decision they ought to have the right to make.”
Hatfield told council members they should take note of the new house being built on South Broadway, the first lot outside the city limits.
“They've chosen to put that on a slab,” he said. “Why, I don't know. Perhaps to save money. Perhaps they don't have a personal need for a basement.”
Hatfield concluded, “We think that, by making this amendment, we have potentially helped some people save some money. ...We hope it will help address some of the in-fill that could possibly take place on vacant lots we have around town that won't necessarily support a more expensive home.
“People would still have the option. They could build a crawlspace or a floating slab. It opens up the possibilities and bringing us in alignment with the communities we're competing against.”
“Could you put a trailer on it,” Bowers asked.
“No,” Hatfield replied. “That's addressed elsewhere in the code.”
“I just don't see the need for it,” Bowers said. “I think you're being railroaded by the sales department.”
“Respectfully, I disagree,” Hatfield said. “If you look around the nation, you see a lot of homes being constructed on slabs. Let the market decide.”
Tossava emphasized that this was the council's first reading of the ordinance and that it would be coming back before them.
“If you come up with any questions, we'll address this again.”
In other business, the council:
• met in closed session to discuss pending litigation regarding Hastings Dog Park and Ward Residency Requirements for Council Members and to get information on progress of discussion regarding Rutland Township Sewer Agreement. The only action that the council took, when it returned to open session was a unanimous vote to establish residency requirements for council members, saying they must live in the wards they are seeking to represent.
• heard an update from Dennis Benoit of Hubbell, Roth and Clark Inc. on the asset management plan for storm and sanitary sewers in the city. The completion deadline for the project is Dec. 31. The total project amount is $791,820. The grant was for $712,639 with a 10 percent match from the city.
• authorized a property lease agreement with U Rent Em Canoe that allows the business to use the two strips of land along Apple Street.