Is County Committed to Affordability

Guest Correspondence

Three recent headlines from local media publications provided material for this month’s column.

 “Questions Arise on value of local leaders intercity trips” – Sarasota Observer

“Good questions on affordable housing”-Editorial Sarasota Herald-Tribune

“Find ways to make housing affordable”-Editorial Sarasota Herald-Tribune

I have always had concerns about the trips to “model cities” to learn about best practices. Like many others, I don’t see significant evidence of results from earlier visits. Maybe the time has come for Sarasota taxpayers to ask what gains have been made as a result of the last five trips and what we can expect to see implemented following this visit. In so doing our local leaders could make the case for the continuation of these boondoggles at taxpayers’ expense. I suppose it does provide an opportunity for a bonding experience but if it is mainly the same people every time it does lend itself to be better described as a junket. Incidentally, following the Sarasota visit the folks in Louisville are off on their own junket to Portland, Oregon to learn about best practices there. Perhaps it is just “sour grapes” on my part as I never get invited.

With the housing market heating up, the question of housing affordability is rapidly becoming the “soup de jour” as evidenced by the two recent editorials in the Herald-Tribune. It is quite a juxtaposition for Sarasota on the one hand to be ranked No 31 on the list of most livable cities and at the same time a report recently published by Gulf Coast Community Foundation found that Sarasota County does not have enough affordable housing and many workers in the County don’t earn enough to pay for housing. The questions posed by Jon Thaxton are important but by his own admission somewhat tardy.

I have some questions that I would like to add to the list. What are the Foundations plans for the 300 acres that they acquired back in 2005, I believe to provide affordable housing? The location close to I-75 and somewhat mid-county has become over time a viable location for such an effort. Back in ‘05, one could have argued that it was ahead of its time but today it is a different story.

Why does the County on the one hand recognize the affordability issue and at the same time relieve developers of obligations to build affordable housing? If the developers’ modus operandi has changed, should there not be some mitigation for the loss of these units. After all, developers have to mitigate for the loss of trees and wetlands. 

Isn’t there an affordability component of the 2050 plan? Was this not seriously considered in the recent revision?

Was an opportunity lost by the County to use monies from the CRA, if renewed, for workforce housing as allowed by State Statue?   

One has to question the County’s commitment to this effort, or is it just politics as usual?

One developer not backing away from their obligations is Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, the master developer of Lakewood Ranch. They anticipate construction of more than 2,000 Community/Affordable housing units as part of the Villages of Lakewood Ranch South development, which is due to start the first quarter of next year in Sarasota County. With the average price of a house in Lakewood Ranch creeping over $500,000, SMR sees this affordability option as vital for the continued success of the Ranch as it strives to be the numero uno community in the country to live, work and play.  

That’s the way I see it.

Ian Black is the founder of Ian Black Real Estate

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