Continuing their efforts to diversify the housing stock and promote affordability, Sarasota County commissioners unanimously approved a measure Wednesday allowing for the development of so-called tiny houses.

Following discussions last year when commissioners expressed interest in seeing the development of homes less than 900 square feet in size, county staff developed an ordinance allowing for units of 750 square feet in the multifamily zoning districts in the county.

“This provides additional options for the residents of our community,” Jane Grogg, a county planning manager told commissioners during her presentation of the ordinance change.

Commissioners believe that giving developers the option to build the tinier units will lead to cheaper housing costs for those starting out or those looking to downsize their housing.

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

Grogg emphasized that this option would not be available on the barrier islands or in the single-family zoning districts.

Mike Miller, a developer from Venice who spoke in support of the concept, told commissioners they need to bring these types of housing units closer to workplaces and continue working to gain community acceptance of affordable housing.

Miller’s first point was already not lost on commissioners, as the ordinance does encourage their development within the urban service area, which is generally west of Interstate 75.

Keeping the units in the urban service area also means they would be closer to transit routes, employment and commercial centers.

Not all of the half dozen speakers during Wednesday’s public hearing supported the concept of the tinier, 750 square foot units.

“This is way too much of a giveaway to developers,” said Dan Lobeck, president of Control Growth Now. “This will lead to a massive increase in density. Sarasota County is not a sardine can but you’re treating it like such.”

In making the motion to approve the new housing types, Commissioner Alan Maio noted a piece of information they had received earlier that indicated previous changes made by the board had led to the development of more than 3,000 affordable housing units in the county.

“This is our sixth change, with hopefully two more to come,” Maio said. “I think we’re making some big attempts and think this is a piece of it.”


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