City-controlled lots eyed for affordable housing

With new laws allowing lots to be split and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) constructed, four times as many dwellings could be built.
There’s good news for residents of Desert Highland Gateway Estates who have been hoping the city would help build affordable homes on vacant lots in the neighborhood.

Looking to increase the availability of affordable housing in the city, elected officials have their sights set on three lots in the northern part of Palm Springs that, depending on how creative builders get, could hold up to a dozen new dwellings.

Driving the news: During its regular meeting on Jan. 26, the City Council provided staff with guidance on how to develop three lots in city control in the Desert Highland Gateway Estates neighborhood. 

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Looking back: In 2017, the city met with affordable housing developers in hopes they would use the lots for housing using sweat equity. At the time, the math didn’t work to move forward. A subsequent attempt to sell the lots in 2018 fell short.

  • But with new sources of financing now available for affordable housing and the state allowing lot splits, the city is seeing interest from developers who now think the numbers will work out.

Next steps: Councilmembers were presented with about a half dozen options for using the lots, including selling them, building new rental units on them, and building homes that produce more energy than they use.

  • In the end, the direction to staff was to require potential builders to offer a sweat equity program for potential owners of homes on the lots and that those owners be first-time buyers.
  • With sweat equity projects, homeowners earn equity, or ownership interest, in a property by providing a certain amount of labor to construct their home.

What they’re saying: “There are so many benefits, and this is one of our only neighborhoods that has this significant amount of available lots in the city of Palm Springs,” said Mayor Grace Garner, who represents the neighborhood and has frequently heard that renters there would like help becoming owners.

But wait: With new laws allowing lots to be split and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) constructed, what would have been one single-family home on each lot could now be as many as six lots holding two buildings each.

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