Google Ads help pay the expense of maintaining this site

Click Here for the Neighborhood Transformation Website

Fair Use Disclaimer

Neighborhood Transformation is a nonprofit, noncommercial website that, at times, may contain copyrighted material that have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It makes such material available in its efforts to advance the understanding of poverty and low income distressed neighborhoods in hopes of helping to find solutions for those problems. It believes that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Persons wishing to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of their own that go beyond 'fair use' must first obtain permission from the copyright owner.
Tampa Tribune - April 23, 2006

Builders Sue To Stop City Law


TAMPA - This week, Tallahassee lawyers will file court papers to defend a new city law that forces developers to build less expensive homes in some of the capital city's tonier neighborhoods.

It may sound like a local dust-up. But in many counties and cities across Florida where housing costs have scaled stunning new heights, Tallahassee's law to require price caps on part of a private development's homes is precisely what's in the works.

From Hillsborough and Pinellas to Miami-Dade counties and beyond, local governments are closely watching Tallahassee's foray into mandatory inclusionary zoning, used in places nationwide with pricey housing.

Keeping a close watch is the Florida Home Builders Association. The group sued Tallahassee on Feb. 28.

"I don't think it's constitutional, certainly in Tallahassee, to require one small group of people to pay money to deal with a perceived problem that was created by the community at large over many years," said Barry Richard, attorney for the Florida Home Builders Association and local builders and Realtors suing to stop the law.

"The intent of the lawsuit is to establish a precedent that the community cannot do this in this manner. If it has the effect of slowing it down [elsewhere] in the meantime, I'm sure they'll be perfectly happy with that."
Laws Take Root Across State

Jaimie Ross, affordable housing director for 1000 Friends of Florida, said Key West was the first many years ago with such a policy, but its small size and limited growth abilities didn't set off the firestorm that Tallahassee's has. She understands why. City after county after city in Florida have been shipping off proposals to her for advice.

"I've reviewed plans for Sarasota, Martin County and St. Lucie County, and I was just e-mailed the other day from the city of Palmetto. I reviewed Miami-Dade," Ross said. "I don't think the Florida Home Builders Association is coy at all with this lawsuit because they want to stop this. They want to have a chilling effect on the others."

But the celebration, if there's any to be had by Richard's clients, must wait. Although supporters of the laws across Florida have taken notice of the lawsuit, they haven't stopped what they're doing.

Late last month, weeks after the lawsuit was filed, Palm Beach County commissioners voted to establish an interim policy that went into effect April 5. They've directed county planners to have their structure in place by year's end for a law that will require developers to do what the interim policy is now politely asking of new private developments of 10 or more residential units.

The smallest contribution allowed to "work-force housing" as they're calling it: at least 7 percent of the units. The county can throw in sweeteners for those who go further by allowing denser developments than normally allowed - and, in some cases, a break on the money builders must pay for a development's impact on roads. Also expected in the mandatory policy: less red tape for construction permits. The perks are typical of others under consideration.

"The programs that were overturned usually were not providing adequate incentives," said Michael Howe, senior planner for Palm Beach County. "Those programs that were providing incentives, those seemed to be the programs that were successful."
Plan Targets Middle Class

In Palm Beach County, where the median home price is almost $400,000 and the median income is $64,400, the policy doesn't try to help the very poor. Instead its housing plan seeks to create a building boom for homes that cost between $164,000 to $304,000, so middle-income workers can live in Palm Beach County.

"What we've been seeing over the last few years is a lot of families moving north into Martin and St. Lucie counties because they can get more bang for their buck, and they're commuting to Palm Beach County for work," Howe said. "Three years ago, you could buy what was going for $350,000 here, you could buy for $150,000 there. But that's changing. Now those are getting up in the $300,000 range, too."

Miami-Dade County's proposal, set for a hearing next month, is targeting families making $36,000 to $78,000.

"There's a work-force housing problem in Broward County, in Palm Beach County, in Monroe County. There's no place for stressed workers in Miami-Dade County to go," said John McInnis, who is drafting the ordinance in the Miami-Dade attorney's office.
Pinellas Wants Broader Approach

The story is similar in Sarasota County and in Palmetto in Manatee County, which held a workshop last week on its proposal targeted at housing for middle-income workers. Pinellas County, however, hopes to create homes for lower-income workers in its plan still on the drawing boards.

"We're looking at everyone," Pinellas County Commission Chairman Ken Welch said. "It seems to make sense. The maids, the taxi drivers, the wait staff. These are the guys that drive our tourism economy - and they can't afford an $180,000 home."

Tallahassee's law, which went into effect in October, says when developers build a project of 50 or more homes in the city's higher-income neighborhoods, at least 10 percent must be priced at no more than $159,378.

The law also calls for 15 percent of rental units to be set aside for rents affordable to the target households. There are some options built in, including allowing developers to pay a flat fee to a city housing trust fund instead of including the units in the developments. But when they are built as part of the development, the cheaper units must go to homeowners or renters who fit the city's income target: from $28,260 for a one-person household to $76,200 for an eight-member family.

Edie Ousley, spokeswoman for the Florida Home Builders Association, said the group has long advocated for lower-cost housing in other ways. She said the group pushed the creation in 1992 of affordable housing trust funds fueled by real estate sales.

"We don't think mandatory inclusionary zoning is affordable housing," Ousley said of ordinances such as Tallahassee's. "Where a percentage of those homes have to be sold at a set price, then it is the remainder of the market-rate buyers that actually subsidize those inclusive homes. When that happens, the market-rate home buyers pay more for their house."

Tallahassee City Attorney Jim English said the built-in perks save developers time and money: "We've yet to see what this burden is. We have two developers not covered by the ordinance who came in and said, 'We want to do inclusionary housing to take advantage of the trade-off benefits in the ordinance.' What they tell us with the higher densities, they don't believe it will cost them a dime."