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Sarasota Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020 3 months ago

Residents, activists to discuss housing strategies

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The Jericho Project and the Arlington Park Neighborhood Association are hosting an event to identify actions that could help create a more affordable housing supply.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Mary Anne Bowie believes that if Sarasota residents work collaboratively, the region can take meaningful action to address a shortage of affordable housing.

That’s the goal of the Helpful Hopeful Housing Summit, an event scheduled for Feb. 18 that will bring together activists, members of the public and outside experts to discuss affordable housing — with an emphasis on identifying strategies for effecting change.

“Our intention is to create an action agenda that will bring the entire community together to push the boulder of getting the right regulations in place that will build a diversity of housing types,” Bowie said.

Bowie, a professional planner, is president of the Arlington Park Neighborhood Association and executive director of The Jericho Project, the two organizations that organized the event. The partnership reflects the type of coalition Bowie says can be built in support of sensible, effective solutions for improving the housing situation for thousands of Sarasota residents struggling to find an affordable place to live.

The Jericho Project is a nonprofit formed to create affordable housing solutions, with a focus on education and partnership with groups capable of providing housing. Arlington Park is a neighborhood south of downtown and east of U.S. 41 where residents have expressed concern about multifamily residential developments that incorporate some affordable housing, but Bowie believes neighbors are willing to embrace housing solutions if there is a more comprehensive strategy behind the actions officials take.

Like other affordable-housing experts, Bowie thinks solving Sarasota’s issues will require a mixture of solutions. She detailed a few she thinks would be easy to start with: accessory dwelling units, co-living spaces, mobile home subdivisions, modular homes.

She acknowledges there might be some more resistance to changes that would move away from the predominantly single-family character nature of neighborhoods such as Arlington Park, but she thinks one reason residents have been vocal in their opposition to some proposals is because they are larger-scale, developer-initiated plans.

She thinks if the city and county work on more holistic plans for incorporating affordable housing into the fabric of existing neighborhoods — and groups like The Jericho Project work on outreach and education — more buy-in is possible.

“We need to go back into understanding that people have to have roofs over their head that they can afford, that bring them into a social situation that feeds the larger community,” Bowie said. “That’s what we don’t do. We’re very isolated in our single-family homes.”

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