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Down the Pike - Summer 2019

Both the City of Sarasota and Sarasota County are deep in an “affordable housing” discussion.

Both the City of Sarasota and Sarasota County are deep in an “affordable housing” discussion. This tends to occur in the mature phase of a waxing market, when panic and fear drive political discourse and the mantra of “no affordable housing available.” This is not to minimize the seriousness of the problem or question the earnestness of local officials. However, simply put, local government missed a unique opportunity during the protracted economic downturn from 2009 through 2013 to put in place a plan, policy and mechanisms for affordable housing – one that should have included provisions to buy land at lower values and “banked” that land for future affordable housing. County officials are now discussing using some county-owned land for affordable housing, which is a good start. However, the city still does not seem to understand the economic fundamentals of development. Instead, they appear to want to use affordable housing as a cudgel to bludgeon developers into producing affordable housing as part of a market-rate development. This idea is flawed and, even if it were successful, would fail to make more than a small dent in the overall need. Unfortunately, this approach will not work on any reasonable scale to address the affordable housing need. The Rosemary District, on the heels of a successful overlay area that brought about much-needed multi-family rentals and continues to generate new fees and taxes for the municipality, appears now to be “ground zero” in the City’s affordable housing discussions. Providing “affordable housing” is a long-term process and needs long-term ideas that address the real need and targets realistic and meaningful goals.