Mixed Income Housing Bonus, Mixed Income Neighborhoods Overlay and RSA-6 District
Written by: Alan Nochumson
Over the years, the city government has amended the Philadelphia Zoning Code to include incentives to increase the number of housing units as well as the size of such building structures. During the next several articles, we will be discussing the changes either being recently proposed or which have actually been recently made to the Philadelphia Zoning Code.
This part delves into the mixed-income housing bonus, mixed-income neighborhoods overlay, and the creation of the RSA-6 zoning district.
Mixed-Income Housing Bonus
On May 20, district councilmembers Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and Jamie Gauthier introduced Bill No. 210474, which was amended on June 24.
Sections 14-702(2) through 14-702(4) of the Philadelphia Zoning Code establish a mixed-income housing bonus that provides “bonuses” for gross floor area, building height and housing unit density if the property owner designates a certain portion of dwelling units as affordable under the Philadelphia Zoning Code.
Under the law, property owners can instead make a payment to the city of Philadelphia’s Housing Trust Fund to receive the mixed-income bonus instead of including affordable housing units. To do so, the property owner must sign an agreement with the city’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) and make the payment before the building permit may be issued.
Payment is calculated based upon the zoning district, category of bonus and level of affordable housing being offered.
District councilmembers Quiñones-Sánchez and Gauthier presented Bill No. 210474, which increases the payment amounts under the law and creates new requirements for property owners if they want to take advantage of the city’s mixed-income bonus.
The payment in lieu option will now only be available for real estate developments projects with at least 10 residential dwelling units. Previously, real estate development projects with at least four units were eligible to take advantage of the payment in lieu option.
In addition, the calculations have been drastically increased.
To determine the payment in lieu cots, owners with properties located in an RM-2, RM-3, RM-4, RMX-1, RMX-2, RMX-3, IRMX, CMX-3, CMX-4, or CMX-5 zoning district earning a floor area or height bonus, must now multiply the maximum total gross floor area allowed (not including any floor area earned through bonuses other than the mixed-income housing bonus), by $11.30, if the property owner is seeking the moderate-income bonus, and by $14.60, if the property owner is seeking the low-income bonus.
Previously, the payment in lieu was calculated by multiplying the additional total gross floor area allowed (not including any floor area earned through bonuses other than the mixed-income housing bonus) that would be earned through this bonus, by $25, if the property owner is seeking the moderate-income bonus, and by $30, if the property owner is seeking the low-income bonus.
For properties located in an RM-1, CMX-1, CMX-2, or CMX-2.5 zoning district, the payment in lieu is calculated by multiplying the total number of residential dwelling units allowed (not including any dwelling units earned through bonuses other than this mixed-income housing bonus) by $13,600 if the property owner is seeking the moderate-income bonus and $17,700 if the property owner is seeking the low-income bonus.
Under the current law, in contrast, for properties located in an RM-1, CMX-1, CMX-2, or CMX-2.5 zoning district, it is the greater of the following:
- The lot area of the property, measured in square feet, multiplied by $20 if the property owner is seeking the moderate-income bonus and by $24 if the property owner is seeking the low-income bonus; and
- The maximum additional number of residential dwelling units earned through this bonus, after applying all other bonuses earned, multiplied by $25,000 if the property owner is seeking the moderate-income bonus and by $30,000 if the property owner is seeking the low-income bonus.
The changes to the payment in lieu calculation drastically increase the costs. For example, if a developer has a 5,000 square-foot CMX-2 property that is permitted 10 units as of right, under moderate-income, two additional units would be permitted and the estimated payment in lieu would be $163,200.
Under low income, five additional units would be permitted and the estimated payment in lieu would be $265,500.
However, under the current law, the estimated payment in lieu for the moderate-income level would be $100,000 and the estimated payment for the low-income level would be $150,000.
Mixed-Income Neighborhoods Overlay District
On June 24, district councilmembers Quiñones-Sánchez, Gauthier and Kenyatta Johnson introduced Bill No. 210633 which creates the Mixed-Income Neighborhoods Overlay District.
The overlay covers the following:
- The area bounded by Haverford Avenue, 31st Street, Spring Garden Street, the Schuykill River, Grays Ferry Avenue, 47th Street, Larchwood Avenue, 53rd Street, Chestnut Street, 54th Street, Race Street and 50th Street;
- The area located with the TOD overlay district and the 7th council district;
- The area bounded by Westmoreland Street, Kensington Avenue, and Hagert Street, Emerald Street, Boston Street, Coral Street, Front Street, Norris Street, Frankford Avenue, Oxford Street, 6th Street, Dauphin Street (extended), 4th Street (extended), Lehigh Avenue, 5th Street, Allegheny Avenue and B Street;
- The area bounded by Cheltenham Avenue, Charles Street, Pratt Street, Valley Street, Harrison Street, Tackawanna Street, Orthodox Street, Griscom Street, Wakeling Street, Castor Avenue, and Oxford Circle; and
- The area bounded by Roosevelt Boulevard, a former Conrail Right-of-Way, Annsbury Street, 6th Street and Wingohocking Street.
New real estate development projects in this overlay with 10 or more units must provide at least 20% affordability within the overlay boundaries, with 10% of the total units having to be on the property itself while the other 10% could either be on a property within a half-mile of the new real estate development project or replaced by a payment to the Housing Trust Fund.
The onsite units must be affordable for rental households earning up to 40% area median income (AMI), and for owner-occupied households earning up to 60% of AMI.
The cost of the payment in lieu varies depending on the zoning district of the lot and the gross floor area.
For properties located in an RM-2, RM-3, RM-4, RMX-1, RMX-2, RMX-3, IRMX, CMX-3, CMX-4, or CMX-5 zoning district, the payment in lieu is calculated by multiplying the maximum total gross floor area by $18.
In contrast, for properties located in an RM-1, CMX-1, CMX-2, or CMX-2.5 zoning district, the payment in lieu is calculated by multiplying the maximum total number of dwelling units by $21,800.
Finally, properties located in any other zoning district the payment in lieu is calculated by multiplying the sum of the number of sleeping units divided by two and the number of dwelling units, multiplied by $21,800.
Creation of the RSA-6 Zoning District
Previously, there were 5 Residential Single-Family Attached base zoning districts in Philadelphia—RSA-1 to RSA-5. The numeric suffix is reflective of the size of a property. Generally, as the number gets bigger, the dimensional standards become more restrictive.
On April 28, Mayor Jim Kenney signed Bill No. 21007801-A, which creates the RSA-6 zoning district.
RSA-6 is a district for developing rowhouses similar to the older two-story structures that can be found throughout Philadelphia. Accordingly, the minimum lot width is 14 feet, the minimum lot area is 700 square feet, the minimum rear yard depth is seven feet, and the maximum height is 25 feet.
However, the Philadelphia Zoning Code does provide multiple exceptions for the 25-foot maximum height. Section 14-701(2) permits a maximum height of 38 feet if any of the following conditions are met:
- The lot has an area of 960 square feet or greater;
- The applicant records an instrument, or instruments, in favor of the city, in substance satisfactory to the Department of Planning and Development and in a form satisfactory to the City Law Department, committing to maintain the property as affordable under the law; or
- The applicant demonstrates that at least 30% of properties on the same block face as the primary frontage of the applicant’s property have either no structures or a structure with a height of at least 30 feet (not including roof deck access structures, parapets, balustrades or solar collectors).
The city has not yet edited the zoning map to reflect the addition of the RSA-6 zoning district so it is unclear exactly where the new zoning district will be.
— Clementa Amazan, an associate at Nochumson P.C., is the co-author of this article.
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