Centennial council approves criteria for evaluating housing strategies

New criteria will help working group move forward

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To help make sure the Centennial City Council gets all the information it needs from a housing study, seven criteria points were approved during its July 11 meeting. 

“Tonight, we’re really talking about the review criteria, which is kind of like one step back," said Elizabeth Garvin, an attorney and planner at Clarion Associates, one of the consultants for the housing study. "But when we bring you a report at the end of this process that reflects everything that the working group did, we want to kind of, to the extent we can, be able to give you an apples-to-apples comparison of strategies."

The city’s Housing Study and Policy Development project, funded through a $200,000 planning grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, is currently having its working group assess nine of the 15 potential housing strategies the state identified to help improve housing affordability. 

The strategies include authorizing accessory dwelling units, implementing an inclusionary zoning policy, adjusting development fees for affordable housing, providing funds to landlords that would allow them to lower the prices of rental units, and creating a land banking or land donation program to hold land for future affordable housing development. 

“As we evaluate all of our strategies moving forward, we want to hear from city council about these review criteria so that as we bring you all of the strategies, we’re providing all the information that you need to make the right decisions,” said Melanie Ward, Centennial’s manager of development foresight and infrastructure readiness.

Garvin said the seven criteria points the working group proposed for evaluating each of these strategies are: the city’s comprehensive plan implementation, technical feasibility, administrative feasibility, diversity and equity considerations, impact, effectiveness and cost. 

Assessment of these criteria involves asking the following questions:

  • Does the strategy support the city’s comprehensive plan, Centennial NEXT?
  • How feasible is the strategy and does it require a new specialized process or new staff?
  • Does the strategy support a diverse and equitable community?
  • Will implementing the strategy make a difference?
  • How much of an improvement will the strategy make?
  • What are the anticipated costs of implementing, and not implementing, the strategy? 

“It seems well-thought to me,” Mayor Stephanie Piko said. “I think the council has a great deal of confidence in how those work — those groups work together. So, I think we’re on the right track.” 

The working group consists of representatives from organizations including Denver South, Arapahoe County, South Metro Denver Realtors Association and Centennial representatives. Garvin said the working group meets monthly, and the next meeting is slated for July 25. 

After assessing and collecting community feedback on these nine strategies, the working group will help narrow down the strategies to the top four that seem the most supported and likely to make an impact on Centennial, Ward said during a District 1 meeting on June 28. Then, those four strategies will potentially go before the Planning and Zoning Commission and/or city council, she said. 

Criteria in action: Assessing accessory dwelling units 

The first two strategies the working group is exploring are accessory dwelling units and inclusionary zoning policies. To show city council how the assessment process works, Garvin gave a presentation on how the working group has assessed accessory dwelling units so far. 

Accessory dwelling units are defined in Centennial’s housing study as “small secondary residential structures located behind the primary house or within an existing house.” These units are also referred to as “secondary dwellings,” “granny flats” and “mother-in-law apartments.”

Garvin said implementing accessory dwelling units would support Centennial NEXT. She said its implementation would be somewhat technically feasible because the units can usually be accommodated within the existing land use approval process, though there could be code enforcement issues depending on how the city chooses to set up the regulations. 

When assessing administrative feasibility, Garvin said the strategy would require updating zone district use permissions as well as deciding where these units could be located and if there should be size or design restrictions.

Under the diversity and equity criteria, accessory dwelling units can be fairly expensive to build, which may cause a funding issue for some homeowners, Garvin said. On the other hand, for residents, accessory dwelling units can provide more housing for a range of incomes and people of different ages and abilities. 

The three other criteria points —  impact, effectiveness and cost — will be assessed during the working group’s meeting later this month, Garvin said. The group will also be doing further analysis and assessment on the inclusionary zoning policy and what that implementation could look like in Centennial. 

“I think it’s the cost and the impact that is the hardest thing to anticipate,” Piko said. 

Garvin said the consultant team and staff have been talking about how to get cost information and that collecting actual cost numbers will be part of the process. The working group will also look at some longitudinal studies on strategies, like accessory dwelling units, that have been implemented elsewhere in the country to see what happens over time. 

She also said based on the working group’s assessment and community input, the group may present multiple methods to approach a strategy. 

“There will be strategies where the response that we propose will not be one size fits all. And so it’s entirely possible that there are two or three sets of ADU regulations based on the circumstance in which they’ll be applied,” Garvin said. “The goal is to make sure that we’re fine tuning any regulatory policy changes to match the various parts of the community.” 

The City of Centennial is asking for community feedback on its housing study and the nine housing strategies the working group is currently reviewing. Image taken on July 18, 2022.
The City of Centennial is asking for community feedback on its housing study and the nine housing strategies the working group is currently …

Community input on housing strategies 

Community feedback on these potential housing strategies is also part of the assessment process. 

Garvin said there were 40 responses so far to a survey about accessory dwelling units, and 75% said they would support allowing them in Centennial. Other feedback, such as regulations the city should consider and if residents are interested in creating an accessory dwelling unit on their property, is also being collected in the survey. 

“Our numbers are still relatively small here,” Garvin said. Residents can submit feedback on accessory dwelling units by filling out this online survey: bit.ly/CentennialADU

The housing study group is also collecting feedback on inclusionary zoning, which residents can share their thoughts on by filling out this online survey: bit.ly/CentennialZoning.

In addition to the online surveys, community members are also invited to attend a housing needs workshop on Aug. 9 from 5-7 p.m. at the Trails Recreation Center, located at 16799 E. Lake Ave. in Centennial. 

To find more information about Centennial’s housing study, visit CentennialCO.gov/housing. Residents can also submit questions by emailing housing@centennialco.gov or they can call the planning and zoning hotline at (303) 754-3308.

Centennial, Centennial Housing Study, Housing, Affordable Housing

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