Charlotte County was 0 for 2 in attracting affordable housing for 2019.
The two attempts by the county to get subsidized housing failed.
So Community Services staff turned to another county that has apparently had more luck — Manatee County.
Charlotte County staff recently presented their newest strategies to encourage private industry to build low-income housing without federal and state subsidies.
And Commissioner Joe Tiseo outlined how the county might pay for it.
One commissioner thinks the state should pay, not the county.
Local projects that failed so far include the commission’s plan earlier this year to give away land on Veterans Boulevard in exchange for a low to moderate income apartment complex. Only one developer submitted a proposal, and it was only for 68 units out of an allowed 600, so commissioners rejected the proposal. The second failure occurred a month ago when several companies failed to get a low-interest construction loan for Charlotte County projects.
What about waiting for developers to build affordable housing without incentives, Commissioner Christopher Constance asked.
Only 35 affordable units were built last year out of the total of 2,137, Community Services Director Carrie Walsh told commissioners. The county needs 5,553 more affordable units by 2025, planners estimate.
What more can be done when free land doesn’t work and subsidized construction loans require winning the lottery?
Manatee County tried waiving impact fees that many municipalities in Florida charge for new construction. Like Charlotte County, however, their fees were low, and no developer took the bait, Manatee County’s Community Development Division Manager Denise Thomas told commissioners.
But then, Manatee County’s impact fees tripled, she said, and the county added utility fee waivers along with other incentives.
Suddenly, Manatee has 11 projects going with 1,000 new units, Thomas said. The county now plans to hand out $2.8 million in fee waivers before the projects are done.
“It looks like we have a model to work with,” said Commissioner Ken Doherty.
Charlotte County staff are recommending waiving both impact fees and utility hook up fees for water and sewer, which run about $10,000 per apartment. Other incentives could include permitting taller construction and higher density. In exchange, developers would have to accept a Land Use Restriction Agreement lasting 10 to 25 years, staff said. The restrictions would require that owners or renters be low or moderate income, as defined by state housing finance regulations.
For apartment complexes, Walsh said, the county should pursue mixed income projects with market rate units, so that projects are sustainable over time. Mixed income apartments can also help avoid what Commissioner Stephen R. Deutsch called the “slums of the future,” Walsh said.
How can the county pay for these incentives?
Tiseo proposed ending the Charlotte Harbor Redevelopment Authority now that the Sunseeker resort is under construction. That would allow the county to divert $1 million of the estimated $24 million in annual property taxes to an affordable housing fund, he said.
Constance took an opposing stance. The county should be making the state release the hundreds of millions of dollars it has diverted from an affordable housing trust.
“It’s not our responsibility,” Constance said. “We get stuck with everything.”
Several commissioners said the county cannot wait for the state to do the right thing.
“We adopted it to be our problem,” Tiseo said, “and come up with a solution.”