County Affordable Housing Efforts Should be Recognized

Guest Correspondence

Image via Pixabay.

Affordable Housing was at the top of concerns for residents who completed a recent survey about where to spend American Rescue Plan monies. As inflation has set in and is no longer considered transitory, more and more residents, and the non-profits who serve them, are feeling a pinch on their wallets. This is especially aggravated in housing due to the population migration to Florida from other parts of the United States, which is creating a demand on housing.

The county has been aggressively working on affordable housing in recent years, but has not done a great job of communicating its work and accomplishments. The webpage dedicated to affordable housing on the county website outlines all the things being done to work on this issue. It is very surprising to many when they begin to learn the story of the county efforts. 

Free market principles come into play with affordable housing. The first of the five immutable laws of affordable housing is that “developers don’t pay the costs of construction, tenants and buyers do” according to Strong Towns. While government cannot force a market to do what it wants in a free society, it can create an environment to encourage affordable housing. This market principle is something that the County Commission has taken very seriously, and also acted upon. 

In 2017, the county passed an expedited permitting procedure to streamline review processes for affordable housing. This brings down approval costs and speeds up timing in building affordable housing.

In 2018, the county created a new metering category for utility fee rates. This new category was applicable to single-family dwellings of less than 750 square feet and created a lower rate for these units. That same year, the county updated mobility fee rates for units of the same size to reduce rates. To lift further onerous regulations on smaller units, parking requirements were reduced for multi- and single-family developments. 

In 2019, the county developed half-dwelling unit density standards for multi-family development and accessory dwelling units were made allowable in certain residential districts. 

Approved developments have also been a part of the affordable housing county efforts. Affordable housing has been a part of developments approved under the 2050 plan, a critical area plan incentive, and an affordable housing overlay. Roughly 25% of the total approved units for these developments will bring 3,000 affordable housing units to our county inventory when all are complete.

More recently, the county has also used its own resources to create affordable housing. The county has taken two county-owned parcels and requested submittals for proposals on them to build affordable housing. 

The county has entered into negotiations for contracts for these properties with affordable housing developers. One large parcel will have 156 affordable housing units with half at sixty percent area median income. The second will have 96 units at 80% area median income. 

Additionally, services and assistance continue to be offered directly to residents through the Office of Housing and Community Development through various programs.

This column has touched on just a few of the efforts by the county to encourage the creation of affordable housing. While there is always more work to be done, their accomplishments in maximizing opportunities in the free market system should not go unnoticed. Keep up the good work.

Christine Robinson is executive director of The Argus Foundation.

Image via Pixabay.

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