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UNIVERSAL CITY, CA-Speakers at an affordable housing conference sponsored by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development here on Monday called for state, local and federal officials to work together toward reducing regulatory barriers that thwart the production of affordable work force housing. Affordable housing developments throughout the country are “stopped dead in their tracks” by regulatory barriers, HUD senior counsel A. Bryant Applegate told the audience at the event, called the Western Regional Housing Summit.

Applegate and other speakers repeatedly sounded the theme of “regulatory barriers,” urging the repeal or revision of regulations that sidetrack affordable housing projects. He asked for cooperation from state and local officials in eliminating such barriers, but he also told conference attendees to let HUD know which of its regulations are most burdensome so that HUD can go about removing them.

“We are not asking states and cities to do anything that we would not do,” Applegate said. He and other speakers also asked the conference audience to support “America’s Affordable Communities Initiative,” a partnership between HUD and local communities that is designed to “identify and overcome regulatory barriers that prevent families from finding affordable work force housing.”

Krista Mills, HUD field office director in Louisville, KY, pointed out that the very room in which the housing summit convened on Monday had been used for a foreclosure auction just the day before. Mills said that the coincidence underscored the need for officials at all levels of government to sign on to the effort to reduce regulatory barriers that slow or prevent the development of affordable housing.

HUD secretary Steve Preston addressed the audience via a video in which Preston noted that, in many parts of California and other states, “excessive red tape is even preventing the construction of housing for America’s work force.” Preston said that a primary goal of America’s Affordable Communities Initiative is to ensure an adequate supply of affordable housing for teachers, police officers, fire fighters, transportation workers, nurses and other essential workers who often must live far from their jobs because of the lack of affordable housing in or near the cities where they work.

Preston pointed out that, over the years, “Some communities have created layer upon layer of regulations, many of which have long since outlived their usefulness.” The HUD secretary called them “regulatory fossils” that “do nothing for the community, but ratchet up the costs for homeownership and renting.”

Preston cited specific examples of how regulations can quash a project. A HUD study in 2005 found that one community required builders to provide four-and-a-half parking spaces per home, he said, “effectively banning multifamily and senior housing developments.” Although many of the regulations were well-meaning and intended for valid public purposes, they have become outdated or burdensome over time, the HUD secretary said.

Preston and other speakers also asked for support of HUD’s “National Call to Action,” an effort designed to correct misconceptions about affordable housing and to deliver the message that “regulatory barriers to affordable housing are ultimately self-defeating. More than 140 states and local communities have already signed on to the National Call and are taking action, according to Preston.

Monday was the kickoff day for the conference, which continues for its second and final day today at the Sheraton Universal Hotel. HUD officials expected the event to draw more than 450 registrants from California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii to discuss the future of affordable housing in today’s climate of rising foreclosures and declining home values.

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