Arcadia city officials say they have so far not gained residents from a housing squeeze caused by the population growth of coastal neighbors Charlotte, Lee and Sarasota counties.

New U.S. Census numbers may show otherwise, but nothing suggests the municipality of 8,700 residents is serving as a relief valve for nearby counties filling up with newcomers.

“Population growth in Arcadia is very flat, as it has been for several years,” said City Manager Terry Stewart and Mayor Keith Keene in a joint email addressing the year ahead.

Stewart and Keene said they nonetheless have seen a small uptick in the construction of single-family homes in Arcadia.

“How much of that becomes available for sale or rent during this year is a matter of question,” the officials said.

They noted some increase has occurred in permitting for additional affordable units in apartment housing.

These will ultimately include a new low-income rental complex that the novel coronavirus pandemic knocked off track last spring. A public-private partnership initiated by the Arcadia Housing Authority, the project is planned as a two-floor complex of 58 duplex apartments, according to Becky-Sue Mercer, the Housing Authority’s executive director.

The project, Cypress Garden Apartments, is slated for city blocks of Cypress Street, 11th Avenue, Hickory Street and 12th Avenue. The combined parcels are almost five acres, Mercer said in an interview last year.

The Housing Authority’s development entity, the Arcadia Housing Development Corp., bought the four parcels in 2006.

Outside Arcadia, an effort to put housing closer to jobs is under way on South U.S. 17 with the Bridlewood modular-home development. The single-family element of the project specifies 1,100 homes, as well as 400 rental units in the multi-family area.

DeSoto County accommodated the development by designating a multi-use for several thousand acres the county’s land-use plan designated as “Employment Center” and Light Industrial. The land-use plan change also designates the remaining acreage for commercial, industrial and agricultural use. It allows the property’s ownership group, Highway 17 Industrial LLC, to build 1.5 million square feet of industrial space, 150,000 square feet of commercial space, 75,000 square feet of retail and 75,000 of office space.

Also, a Walmart distribution center and other large employers are nearby.

Another modular-home development under way, The Preserve, targets retirees rather than workers. The project is to have 999 manufactured homes in a 55-and-over community on 513 acres at 11144 SW Glenadine Ave. near Lake Suzy close to DeSoto’s border with Charlotte County.

“They are selling homes out there,” DeSoto land Realtor Mac Martin said of The Preserve.

While Arcadia apparently is not seeing residential spillover from the coastal counties, residents of both the city and unincorporated DeSoto are sticking around. Attribute this to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Martin, a DeSoto native and broker/owner of Gulf Land Real Estate.

“People are deciding they want to stay put,” he said in a recent interview.

The result: Homes and land for sale are getting scarce, especially for homes that fall into the workforce housing category, said Martin, the Florida Land Institute 2019 Broker of the Year.

Home sellers are “pretty quick” to get bites, he added. “The market is very active for available homes,” especially ones at prices affordable to working families.

“Where working people can have a house — that is what’s selling,” he said.


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