Sunday, April 09, 2006

Common Ground - Affordable Housing

Representatives of five major Sarasota organizations with interests in downtown, neighborhoods, and affordable housing met Saturday to discuss and seek common ground on the controversial comprehensive plan amendment the City Commission will be considering at its April 17th hearing.

That amendment would enable developers in Sarasota’s downtown core and bayfront and in certain downtown edge neighborhoods to build projects at four times allowable density if ten percent of the units are affordable to buyers with annual incomes of $55,000-$67,000. In downtown and bayfront areas, this amendment would increase density from 50 to 200 units per acre.

The group included executives and board members of the CCNA (Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations), the Downtown Partnership, the Chamber’s Young Professionals Group, SOS (Save Our Sarasota), and the Tenant-Landlord Coalition.

Among concerns discussed were the speed with which such a far-reaching amendment has been crafted and processed, the small total number of affordable units that consultants projected would be generated, the impact on infrastructure, and the lack of an overall city affordable housing policy addressing all tiers of need for affordable and work force housing rather than just higher end affordable housing needs and the general lack of agreement concerning this proposal.

After a spirited discussion, a compromise solution was offered for consideration by CCNA and SOS representatives---that the downtown, bayfront and Alta Vista be excluded from the amendment but that portions of the Park East, Rosemary, and Central Cocoanut districts where neighborhoods have asked for increased density for affordable housing be used as pilot projects to test the 4x density solution. Each participating organization will have its board of directors consider this proposed compromise with the hope of appearing at the commission hearing with a unified position on the amendment.

Representatives were in agreement that affordable housing is a most crucial city need and problem and that their discussion had been very productive and a constructive first step toward an inclusive public consideration of city-wide affordable housing initiatives.

All of the representatives indicated they would be opposed to any "in lieu of" payment by developers, indicating that the intent of the proposal is to get affordable housing units built.

This was a unique gathering of these stakeholders in an attempt at coming together to bring a constructive solution, as a first step, to this issue.

Representatives included Susan Chapman, Andrew Foley, Dick Clapp, Linda Holland, Kelly Kirshner, Janice Green, Jude Levy, Joe Moraca, Carol Reynolds, Dick Sheldon, Gretchen Serrie, Tony Souza, John Susce and Stan Zimmerman.

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