Monday, May 08, 2006

Affordable Housing

The Naples News has an excellent series about what that community is doing about affordable housing.

A few snippets from this series:

If Collier adopts the ordinance unveiled April 13 to the Affordable Housing Commission, 15 percent of homes in a new development would be affordable. The developer would get a 15 percent increase in the number of units. That means a 50-acre community at four units per acre would increase from 200 units to 230 units. The additional 30 must be affordable.

Collier builders say inclusionary zoning doesn’t work.

“Talk to people in Montgomery County, Md. They all dislike it,” Zichella said.

Montgomery County, a bedroom community of Washington, D.C., was the first in the nation to adopt inclusionary zoning in 1974. Just like Naples, its firefighters, teachers and nurses couldn’t afford to live in the high-priced community.

Since the 12.5 percent affordable housing requirement was adopted, it has produced 11,000 affordable units, said Scott Minton, executive director of the Housing Opportunities Commission in Rockville, Md.

The ordinance was controversial at the time. Now, developers like Nanci Porten, of the Maryland National Capital Building Industry, say otherwise.

“It works,” said Porten, who added that the details are what make or break it.

Incentives determine whether developers will build affordable homes or take their business elsewhere. In Davidson, N.C., where affordable housing has been required for three years, officials are matter-of-fact about the developer impact.

“It’s the price of admission,” said Kris Krider, city planning director, who said that some builders left after the ordinance was adopted but new ones arrived.


Efforts to solve Collier County’s affordable housing crisis have stalled in the past year because county commissioners have resisted sacrificing their most sacred political cow — adequate roads.

“I voted for a road, not against affordable housing,” Commissioner Donna Fiala said of her February vote against an affordable housing development off Collier Boulevard.

Roads are at the center of the affordable housing debate between Collier commissioners and developers who are clamoring for regulatory and fee relief.

Developers say Collier’s checkbook-style traffic management system, which aims to make sure roads can handle new development before it occurs, is the state’s toughest. Collier’s building industry has gone to court to fight the county’s impact fees on new development, which are among the highest in Florida.

Commissioners are expected in May to finish a round of impact fee hikes that will raise the fees on a 2,000-square-foot home from $17,000 to $29,000. Such steep fees are enough to put housing out of reach for teachers, firefighters and sheriff’s deputies, builders say.

Impact fees, regulatory costs, zoning policies to restrict new development — all of these tangle up the debate over affordable housing and all have brought Collier commissioners and the building industry to a political standoff.

It’s not just affordable housing that’s on hold.

Commissioners Fred Coyle and Fiala formed a voting bloc to create a de facto halt to all new development approvals. Four of the five commissioners must vote for a rezoning approval.

Both believe Collier’s building industry lobbied behind the scenes last year for state growth management legislation that undermines the county’s 2-year-old traffic management system to make sure new development can’t go forward on clogged roads.

Al Zichella, president of the 1,500-member Collier Building Industry Association, denies it.

Now, Coyle says he won’t approve rezonings until he knows whether the Legislature will restore Collier’s authority to impose stricter development rules than the state’s.

The stalemate is hitting developers where it hurts. Land broker Ross McIntosh said he lost a $20 million deal in recent months because of the uncertainty of zoning.


A speculative real estate bubble hasn’t burst in Naples, but it’s brushing against a sharp pin.

How much a market correction may ease Naples’ affordable housing crisis is still unclear. The uncertainty adds another layer to leaders’ murky task of assessing workers’ housing needs.

“It’s like trying to grab air,” housing industry analyst Mike Timmerman, of Hanley Wood Market Intelligence, said of assessing the affordable housing need. “All we know is there is a demand.”

Could the market slide back to prices that middle-income workers here can afford? Real estate industry watchers believe a market correction will help affordability.

Fundamentally, though, there’s a shortage of worker housing in Naples — a market best known as a luxurious winter playground for CEOs, a place that saw a $25 million beachfront estate fly off the market in 2005 in less than a week.

No easy answers but even Naples is looking hard. It seems that the commissioners are trying their best to make development pay for the added cost (of roads, etc) and that inclusionary zoning will be a key part of a community solution even though developers oppose it.

Other parts of the series discuss inclusionary zoning in California where many communities are relying on this tool:

The March median home price in northern Santa Barbara County was $461,700 while median income was $65,000. Countywide, median home prices are $750,000, up $137,000 from 2005. The county is among 107 California communities with inclusionary zoning. It mandates, depending on the part of the county, that 20 to 30 percent of homes be affordable to people making a certain percentage of the median income. Developers are required to build 5 percent of homes for very-low income, 5 percent for low-income, 10 percent for moderate-income and 10 percent for work force housing. However, in 10 years, inclusionary zoning produced only 263 affordable units. Officials say the developer’s opt-out fee was too low. In November 2004, the opt-out fees increased to $80,000 for the very-low income home, $110,000 for low-income, $183,000 for the moderate income and $423,000 for the work force home. The county added the incentive of one additional market-rate home for each moderate- and work force home. Now, 450 affordable homes are under construction and another 245 are coming later this year.

Aspen, CO is mentioned as having a 50% inclusionary zoning requirement.

All this makes our "10% affordable units give you a 400% density bonus" formula look like developer dream come true.


Anonymous said...

Can someone give me information about the city's overall affordable housing plan? Can it be accessed on the city's web-site?

mycitytoo said...

Why don't we hear discussion of these kinds of options at the commission table? 10% affordable housing for 4x density is a giveaway.

Why is the School Avenue housing not inclusionary? And why would Habitat for Humanity accept non-inclusionary affordable housing?

Andrew Ward said...

To Ms. Chapman,

I beg your pardon. I am very happy to say that the building I am moving into in downtown Kansas City is GORGEOUS, has fantastic ammenities, and is located in a very nice area -- FAR from "ghetto." It is much more of a residence than I could ever afford in Sarasota.

Obviously you have not personally visited the area, nor have you done much research on the building, which as a teacher, I can thankfully afford (unlike the astronomical prices of the fixer-uppers here in this area, which I cannot even QUALIFY for!)

I do not want extravagant luxury, but do want to be able to afford a nice place in which to live. I feel extremely lucky to be able to purchase a two bedroom/two bath unit in an urban area close to all of the art, culture, shopping, and entertainment a big city has to offer.

As for 50 miles to work?? Turner High School is a 10-12 minute drive from downtown. I am pleased to say that I will be saving gas on my shortened, daily commute. Currently in Sarasota, I am driving 20-30 minutes. I will enjoy the savings on fuel in KC!

I am excited about what Kansas City has to offer, and a future I will be able to invest in. It's too bad that Sarasota is growing so fast that the younger generation can't keep up. It's a nice place to live -- so long as you want to RENT and invest in someone else's nest egg. That's not for me. It does not make financial sense.

So, I will go enjoy my condo in the "ghetto," and work hard at what I do best--teaching the nation's youth. I'm sorry that I cannot stay in Sarasota, but the city doesn't seem to have a place for me. I will miss this town, but I understand that I'm "not rich enough to make a life here." So, I will pack up my knowledge, my talents, my gifts, my desire to invest in this community, and my youth and move it to where I can realistically make a future for myself. I am choosing to invest in the Midwest -- it's a fantastic place to live!

Mr. Ward

Anonymous said...

"Why would Habitat . . . ." began a question in an earlier post.

It did not. Not so far at least. Notwithstanding the testimony of Mike Jacobsen at the commission table, there never was a deal in place, not even a letter of intent.

They lied under oath. And, from the comments at the commission table, they were taken at their word by our commissioners who - later - tried to say that the Habitat/Hospital/Burks deal they thought was fact was not material to their decision.

Sometimes there's nothing to say and little that can be done 'till they come asking for our votes again.