Judge rules for Patterson affordable housing charge

PATTERSON -- The city's affordable housing fee of $20,000 for each new house is a reasonable amount to charge home builders that do not set aside a percentage of their project for low-income housing, a Stanislaus County Superior Court judge ruled.

The fees were challenged by the Building Industry Association of Central California and Morrison Homes, which argued that the fees were unreasonable.

"Our attorneys are evaluating the decision for possibility of appeal," Steve Madison, executive vice president of the BIA, said Monday.

More than one-third of cities and counties in the state demand that developers include a percentage of affordable homes in every project. Patterson gave builders an option of paying an "in-lieu" fee of about $700 per lot instead of building the affordable housing, city attorney George Logan said.

"They were paying it, but it didn't add up to do anything meaningful," he said.

Patterson entered a study in 2005 to determine what fees were necessary to meet the city's low-income housing needs.

The developers of Patterson Gardens, a subdivision in west Patterson, agreed to pay the affordable housing fees that resulted from the study, Logan said.

But Morrison Homes, one of the project's home builders, and the BIA balked when the results of the study determined that the fees should be $20,000 per house. They challenged the methodology of the study and argued that the cost of affordable housing shouldn't be solely the responsibility of new development, Madison said.

Judge David Vander Wall said in court papers filed last week that the methodology used by Patterson to determine the amount of the affordable housing fee and the fee were reasonable.

Patterson later changed its ordinance so that there is no longer a set fee. Home builders are given the option of making 15 percent of their units low-income housing or pay the city enough to build the 15 percent, Logan said.

"That comes out to about $20,000 in today's market," he said.

Bee staff writer Christina Salerno can be reached at csalerno@modbee.com or 238-4574.