JMI Shows Need to Get Serious on Housing

Guest Correspondence

Affordable housing. Workforce housing. Attainable housing. No matter what you call it, everyone agrees we need some and most will say it is at a crisis level.  The problem is, not many understand factors that are causing housing to be so expensive, and then there are those who do understand, but will just deny it because they want to stop growth.

The James Madison Institute recently studied an important aspect of affordable housing and issued a report that will be the focus of a joint luncheon meeting between The Argus Foundation and Gulf Coast Builders Exchange on Thursday, May 16, at the Sarasota Yacht Club called, “Assessing the Effects of Local Impact Fees and Land-use Regulations on Workforce Housing in Florida.”

To begin with, the market is dictating the general cost of housing. There are aggravators that make matters worse, but the market brings us to where we are today. As the JMI report states, “When supply doesn’t keep up with demand, prices go up.” 

This will shock some, but what it means is that we aren’t building enough to meet market demand. In Florida, JMI estimates that statewide, Florida only built about half of what it needed in new homes between 2010 and 2016. 

Nothing will be solved without new homes being built.  See California.

But how does public policy and government aggravate this problem?

JMI will review its findings for its study and specifically look at impact fees for the Bradenton, Sarasota, Fort Myers metropolitan areas.

A primary issue is admitting that government can be part of the problem, and actually doing something about it. Every time government issues a tax or regulation, there are consequences on the market, no matter the intention.

The next step is having the courage to take every single regulation and measure its effect on affordable housing. Local government should do this every single time a new or changed regulation is enacted whether it be “minimum lot sizes, minimum parking requirements or height limits that restrict density.” Local government should make the effect on affordable housing a permanent part of staff reporting, just like government budget fiscal impacts.   

I don’t see this being done here in Sarasota County for any local government.  Occasionally, a commissioner or council person might bring it up while enacting a new ordinance, but no one is really making sure nothing slips by without this analysis. 

If a government isn’t doing this or asking for this, they are not really serious about tackling affordable housing as an issue.

What is important about this study is not just identifying the problem, but offering solutions. JMI has recommendations in its report.  We will learn more about JMI’s report and recommendations in our joint meeting. Join The Argus Foundation and Gulf Coast Builders Exchange on May, 16.  Reservations are available at

Christine Robinson is executive director of The Argus Foundation.

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