SARASOTA — Six weeks from now, Sarasota County commissioners will once again look at affordable housing, this time considering a change that would allow the development of so-called half-dwelling units in the county.

During its meeting Tuesday in Sarasota, the board unanimously approved without discussion as part of its consent agenda a public hearing for March 13 to consider an amendment to the Unified Development Code to include half-dwelling units.

In 2018 meetings, commissioners made a variety of changes to the zoning code to encourage the development of more affordable housing. They wanted it as a commission priority and expressed interest in the idea of units smaller than 900 square feet.

In May 2018, they requested that County Administrator Jonathan Lewis proceed with the drafting of an ordinance that would allow for half-dwelling units, which are generally 750 square feet in size.

According to a staff memo in the meeting packet, county staff is recommending that these units be permitted in the multi-family zoning districts, and, in addition, be within the urban service area, which is generally west of Interstate 75.

During May discussions, commissioners felt it was important these units be close to employment and commercial centers and transit routes as well.

Staff, according to the memo, also considered the idea of allowing half-units in the single-family zoning districts but rejected this option due to the variety of issues, both practical and legal in nature.

However, the memo notes that staff still has under consideration the idea of allowing accessory dwelling units in the single-family districts.

They plan to deliver a report to the board in February discussing these along with tiny homes of less than 400 square feet, and small homes in the 400-1,000-square-foot range.

Staff also plans to hold a meeting with interested developers and the public ahead of the public hearing in March.

They have previously discussed the concept with the planning commission and the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, which were generally supportive of the idea, although the latter body expressed reservations about these units contributing to the stock of affordable housing in the county.

Generally, the idea of tiny homes and half dwelling units have grown in popularity across the county, particularly with single adults, young professionals, married couples without children, or small families.

“Adding new housing types to the supply provides more choices for the community,” the memo notes.

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