April 19, 2024

Residential Real Estate

Affordable Housing Challenge

In Florida, a family of four must have 2.6 wage earners working full time at minimum wage or one full-time wage earner working 102 hours a week in order to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment, according to a report from the National Low Income Housing C

Mike Vogel | 2/1/2006
Caption: EASING THE PROCESS: Orlando housing director Lelia Allen wants to step up the city's assistance.

Response ... Regulatory Relief


Orlando has expedited permitting and reimbursed developers for some impact fees.

Orlando was honored last year for regulatory changes that led to the creation of more than 6,000 affordable homes since 1996 -- a third of them built by the private sector with nothing more than regulatory-related incentives.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development gave Orlando one of 14 of its 2005 Robert L. Woodson Jr. awards, which recognize local governments that reduce regulatory barriers to promote affordable housing.

Orlando's incentives list is long, but the two most instrumental, says city housing director Lelia Allen, are expedited permitting for affordable homes and reimbursing developers for sewer and transportation impact fees (saving $4,200 per single-family home) and reimbursing a portion of school impact fees -- $952 for apartments, $2,360 for multifamily and $4,340 for single-family homes.

Even so, Allen says, "We have a workforce housing crisis just like every other city in Florida." The median price of existing homes in the Orlando metro area reached $248,900 in the third quarter, up 44% from the same period in 2004, tying the Fort Myers/Cape Coral area for the highest percentage increase in Florida, according to the Florida Association of Realtors. The situation is worsened as apartment complexes are converted into condos.

Allen aims to increase down payment assistance for buyers. She wants to triple assistance for very low income buyers to $30,000 and double help for moderate buyers to $20,000. Very low in 2005 was defined as income under $27,550 for a family of four; moderate income was defined as under $66,120 for the same-size family. One hundred buyers used down payment assistance last year.

CAPTION: SPREADING THE WEALTH: Redevelopment has bypassed Jacksonville's Brooklyn neighborhood. A project headed by Richard Baron's development firm aims to change that.

Response ... Redevelopment

Keeping a Mix

Jacksonville has assembled a parcel to redevelop a rundown neighborhood. The key will be keeping the area from gentrifying.

Jacksonville's Brooklyn neighborhood near downtown hasn't shared in a burst of revitalization around Riverside Avenue that came with the new headquarters buildings for the likes of developer St. Joe Co. Instead, Brooklyn is known for neglect, trash dumping and absentee landlords.

This year, the city plans to begin Brooklyn's redevelopment with hopes for vibrant mixed-income housing, retail and commercial projects. Undertaking the work is McCormack Baron Salazar, a 33-year-old St. Louis firm that made its name with more than 12,000 housing units in 102 projects in 27 cities. Firm CEO Richard Baron is a national leader in mixed-income development. He won the 2004 top honor from the Urban Land Institute for a career of responsible development. The award jury's chair: St. Joe CEO Peter S. Rummell.

Baron's approach is noteworthy. He generally develops rental housing close to downtowns. He focuses on high-quality construction that draws professionals interested in being close to the city center. But he goes off the narrow path to gentrification. His projects typically have half or more of the units reserved for low- and moderate-income families through subsidies. He links existing residents with the social services to support them in life such as job training, child care and elder care.

Baron screens prospective tenants. If low-income families are "responsible and want to stay, fine with us. We don't need to ask everybody to leave. We're not interested in going in and clearing."

Baron hopes to complete an implementation plan for Brooklyn within five months and have earth moving by the end of the year. It will be the firm's first venture in Florida.

Tags: Politics & Law, Around Florida, Government/Politics & Law, Housing/Construction

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