Meeting a Housing Need

Guest Correspondence

SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY DEC 12, 2015

I rarely read Paul Krugman’s columns but his op-ed last week, titled “Not Just New York City’s challenge: Tight land regulation, gentrification and inequality,” caught my attention.

Using New York as an example, he pointed out that it was just not New York but could apply to many of our iconic cities. From my perspective, substitute the City of Sarasota for New York in the article and it makes for an interesting read.

He writes about how our cities after decades of decline has been getting richer, more educated and yes whiter. “Today are urban cores are providing ever more amenities, but largely to a very affluent minority” He goes on to talk about how the benefits of this urban renaissance can be spread more widely. The body of the article outlines the main causes of this phenomena, dramatic decline in crime rates, he uses New York as an example. The high-income elite, as he labels it, now want to live in inner cities, as opposed to sprawling suburban estates. Hence gentrification. So what about all those who are being priced out of Americas’ urban revival. He poses the question “does it have to be that way?” According to Krugman, “No. Rising demand for urban living by the elite could be met largely by increasing supply.” He further mentions that tight land–use restrictions are a contributing factor to unaffordability.

My apologies to Mr. Krugman for paraphrasing his column, but I am intrigued by its relevance to what is currently happening in Sarasota today. The City Commission with very little fuss created the Rosemary Overlay District, which tripled density in the designated area. Almost overnight, developers, recognizing a void that was not being met, got to work with the end result that well over a thousand units are in the pipeline. Also, Harvey Vengroff is diligently pursuing the development of about 400 affordable units just off Fruitville. Talk about increasing supply. Oh by the way, the Sarasota Housing Authority is also in the process of applying for tax credits to enable the development of at least 80 units, the majority of which will be affordable as mandated under federal guidelines, in a mixed income project on Lemon. Surely this takes care of increasing the housing supply in urban Sarasota and allows the market to play its part.

However, we need to be cognizant of the recent City Commission and Planning Board Workshop that was held to discuss the Urban Design Studio’s proposed recommendations for changes to the City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan. The following language has been added to the paragraph “Intent and Purpose”: “Seek a balance between development and natural systems. Promote sustainability.”

In addition there are also significant new Goals, Objectives and Action Strategies for Habitat and upland resources, expanding sustainability language and updating for best management practices etc. These lofty goals are very laudable but we need to make sure that the baby is not thrown out with the bathwater and we end out with a plan that is over complicated, difficult to interpret, out of touch with the market and expensive to implement.

Remember Andres Duany’s advice on his last visit to Sarasota when he surprisingly suggested reducing regulations. Thi,s coupled with Paul Krugman’s concern about tight land regulations, should be significant factors in analyzing these proposed recommendations to change the City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

That’s the way I see it.

Ian Black is the founder of Ian Black Real Estate.

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