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Sarasota Thursday, Mar. 14, 2019 11 months ago

County Commission approves smaller, more affordable housing units

The units would also help potential buyers save money in the long run by way of reduced wastewater and other impact fees.
by: Samantha Chaney Staff Writer

On March 13, the Sarasota County Commission voted to approve an ordinance that would allow for the development of small multi-family dwelling units, aimed at easing the impact of the county’s affordable housing shortage.

The units, called “half-dwelling units” would be no larger than 750 square feet and located “in proximity to employment or commercial centers and transit routes,” according to county documents. They would not, however, be allowed to be constructed on a barrier island or used as rental accommodations.

In February of 2017, the County Commission identified affordable housing as a priority, which had led to continued research and workshops on the topic. On May 25, 2018, Commissioners first considered the half-dwelling options in a workshop, and then also passed an ordinance on April 17, 2018, that updated mobility fee rates for units less than 750 square feet.

Now, the half-dwelling units are to officially be implemented so that potential homebuyers have smaller, more affordable options at their disposal that also feature reduced fees.

But some members of the public were concerned that the positive effects of the units wouldn’t last.

Sura Kochman, for example, told the Board that they needed to revamp their regulations because affordable housing units, under current regulations, revert to market price after five years.

“This is perpetuating the need for affordable housing, over and over and over again,” she said.

Others were concerned by the influences of developers and population density.

“This, as it is now, is way too much of a giveaway to the developers,” echoed Dan Lobeck, President of Control Growth Now in Sarasota, “And way too much burden on the public, which is burdened enough with all the traffic and neighborhood compatibility and other problems created by the density that’s allowed today.”

But in supporting the proposed ordinance, Commissioner Nancy Detert stressed the importance of ensuring that developers reduce their prices on the units.

The prices of the current market, she said, were in part due to the fees imposed by the County Commission. And in order to make sure the units are actually affordable, she wanted to make sure that developers would reduce their prices in conjunction with the county fees.

“We’re going to reduce our fees and we want to make sure they reduce their prices, too,” Detert said. “They’re great little starter homes, it’s a building block to building wealth.”


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