The lack of affordable housing in Sedona is not a new issue but as more and more long-term rentals are becoming short term, city officials are concerned the issue will become even worse.
To address this problem, city staff is recommending a major amendment to the Sedona Community Plan, which would increase the number of multi-family dwellings allowed per acre within Sedona.
This issue was discussed at the Aug. 15 Sedona Planning and Zoning Commission meeting as well as during an open house on Tuesday, Aug. 22.
“Housing affordability is a high priority issue for the council and the city and one of the Community Plan’s goals is to encourage diverse and affordable housing options,” said Senior Planner Mike Raber, who led the open house discussion. “The Community Plan’s density limit of 12 units per acre does not align very well with the higher densities needed to create these diverse and affordable options.”
If eventually approved by the Sedona City Council, a portion of the Community Plan would “allow densities greater than 12 dwelling units per acre through consideration of projects with strategies for achieving housing diversity, affordability and availability to address local housing needs in areas designated for multi-family high density.”
The proposal is for a text amendment that could apply citywide. No specific properties are being redesignated as a part of this proposed amendment. However, there is a project before the city that is requesting 45 multi-family units on two-and-a-half acres on Pinion Drive.
Raber said the developer has applied to have the new high-density designation applied to the property, contingent upon its approval. Raber told the audience of around 25 that only 14 percent of all housing in Sedona is multi-family, compared to the national average of 32 percent. And of that, apartments make up just 4 percent of the housing units in the city.
Figures from three years ago showed that within the state, 22 percent of a city’s housing were apartments. In addition, it’s been 17 years since the last apartment complex of more than four units was approved in Sedona.
“One of the factors that contributes to [housing] affordability is unit size,” Raber said. “Smaller units typically rent for lower prices than larger ones. For a project with smaller units to work financially, the number of units allowed needs to increase.”
He said despite the city’s desire to see more affordable housing, there are several obstacles standing in the way. They include limited vacant, multifamily locations as well as limited high density zoning, topography, land costs, under-used lots and the impact of short-term rentals. The possible increase in density would apply to both current and new developments.
All would require an approval of a major Community Plan amendment and zone change. Raber pointed out that current height restrictions for buildings will not change. Prior to incorporation, zoning allowed upward of 20 multi-family units per acre.
There are only two vacant acres under that zoning that still remain. The rest allow a maximum of 12.
Senior Planner Cari Meyer said that no magic number has been determined if the city proceeds with this but that 20 would more than likely be the maximum number it would be increased to.
Major amendments to the Community Plan are considered by the Sedona Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council once a year. Passage of an amendment requires two-thirds vote by council. This amendment is one of four being considered this year. The P&Z commission will be hosting a work session on Sept. 14 and a public hearing on Sept. 19.
Council is tentatively expected to host a work session on Oct. 11 and public hearing Oct. 25 in which a vote may be taken.