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East County Thursday, Sep. 8, 2022 2 months ago

Florida Housing Coalition seminar provides key workforce housing tips

Manatee County commissioners could identify some land trust possibilities by late this year.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

District 5 Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said citizens are likely to see the Manatee County Commission begin to take measures to provide more affordable workforce housing after the November elections.

"We have had several work sessions already on affordable (workforce) housing, but we're probably not going to do anything until the new board is in place," said Baugh, who attended a three-day special training program, called Support and Connect, Aug. 29-31 in Orlando. The training program was presented by the Florida Housing Coalition and Fifth Third Bank.

A Manatee County release said the main topic was "best practices in disposition of public land for affordable housing with an emphasis on supplier diversity." Among the representatives of Manatee County attending were Commissioners Baugh, George Kruse, James Satcher and Reggie Bellamy.

Baugh said the Florida Housing Coalition had seven or eight presentations going on at the same time so the commissioners would split up to cover as many topics as possible.

With a supply of county-owned land that isn't pointed toward a purpose, Baugh said it is time to use some of that property for a land trust that could be used for affordable workforce housing.

"The main thing for people to understand is that this has nothing to do with HUD and nothing to do with Section 8," Baugh said. "This is the best move forward to provide housing for our law enforcement (officers), nurses, teachers, stylists. The reason we were at (Support and Connect) was because they were going to be talking about community land trust. I am not highly knowledgeable on how community land trusts work, and the county has vacant land."

She said the biggest factor when it comes to building is the price of land.

Using a land trust, Baugh said the county can have control over the purpose of the building for 30-40 years and retain the land. For example, if the county's agreement is to let a builder put apartments on a property, and 60 of those apartments need to be affordable, they can add a timeline and control that use.

"You have an agreement on what their responsibilities are," she said. "It gives you more control."

Baugh said commissioners might have to look at making changes in redevelopment codes and the Comprehensive Plan.

"It's going to supply homes we so desperately need, and it will continue to be our land," Baugh said.

She said the Florida Housing Coalition will be a valuable resource for the county, answering questions if the board is working through a land trust.

Although the commissioners want to launch whatever tools they have to help working class people who can't afford homes, she said the moves need to remain conservative.

"We want to make sure we are following limited government," she said. "We want free market, but at the same time, the majority of builders right now can't afford to build affordable housing."

Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes looks forward to getting the land trusts started.

“This is an important program, which will help Manatee County address the affordable housing crisis,” Hopes said in a county release. “This will help ensure more robust participation, increasing the contribution of all stakeholders to meeting our local housing needs.”

No possible land has been identified as a possible land trust.

However, Baugh said the county needs to move quickly.

"We are not going to wait," she said. "We need this now. This isn't going to work if we have to wait five years."

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Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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