The city of Greenville is mulling over new zoning rules that would allow developers to transform old, under-utilized motels into affordable housing.
The application for ordinance text amendment that went before the city’s Planning Commission on Thursday, Sept. 17, had the stated goal of providing “incentives to repurpose hotel/motel developments… into affordable residential units.”
Under current rules, a residential development within city limits can have no more than 20 units per acre. But city leaders said those rules caused an unnecessary hindrance on the development of new affordable housing units, specifically when it comes to the reclaiming of old motels.
Motel and hotel developers, operating under commercial-use zoning rules, don’t have to worry about residential zoning requirements. As a result, most motels being considered for affordable housing — none of which were specifically named during the Planning Commission meeting — would exceed the 20-unit limit per acre set by the city for residential use.
“Right now the only option is tear them down,” said Jonathan Graham, interim director of planning and development services with the city. “It’s a shame to lose such good property that, for a small investment, could be easily converted to affordable housing. So bringing forward this amendment in order to allow an adaptive reuse with minimal investment is going to get us the biggest gain.”
The amendment would offer an exception to motels and hotels, so long as the developers allocate 20% of the units to be used as affordable housing for at least 25 years, or 30% of the units as affordable housing for at least 20 years.
The application would also waive parking space requirements for these developments, many of which did not meet the parking space requirements for apartments.
Greenville Homeless Alliance Coordinator Susan McLarty said the amendment would be one positive step toward addressing a growing need.
“We all know there’s a significant deficit of affordable housing within the city limits, and we believe this could help make a difference,” McLarty said.
She argued that in order to “get the system unclogged,” the city would need to help provide 850 immediate exits from homelessness for individuals within the city limits.
“So we recommend this [amendment] as a great option for providing that level of affordability and to connect people near services and public transit systems,” McLarty said.
The amendment was approved by the Planning Commission and will now be sent along for review by City Council.