As the single-family home market continues to struggle, the focus on the multifamily sector has intensified. In order to make these projects financially feasible, California developers often rely on Government Code Section 65915, also known as the Density Bonus Law, which is one of many California statutes reflecting “an important state policy to promote the construction of low income housing and to remove impediments to the same.” (Building Industry Assn. v. City of Oceanside (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 744, 770; Gov. Code § 65582.1(f).)
Density bonus ordinances, either planned or adopted, are found throughout the U.S. and Canada, including: Austin, Texas; St. Petersburg, Florida; Portland, Oregon; Clarkstown, New York; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. Most of these local density bonus awards are tied to the provision of certain thresholds of affordable units, while other jurisdictions provide density bonuses for projects meeting certain green building or sustainability targets.
“The purpose of [California’s] Density Bonus Law is to encourage and provide incentives to developers to include low- and moderate-income housing units in their developments.” (Wollmer v. City of Berkeley (2009) 179 Cal.App.4th 933, 940.) It does so through a mechanism of awarding certain affordable housing projects with “one or more itemized concessions and a ‘density bonus,’ which allows the developer to increase the density of the development by a certain percentage above the maximum allowable limit under local zoning law.” (Id. at 941.)
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