This essay, written by Graceful Solutions President Bill Wilson, first appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat on October 17, 2018.
A recent item on the agenda of the City of Tallahassee’s Develop Review Committee triggered my call to city staff. The item was to develop 21.83 acres of a 117.5-acre parcel in the SouthWood development as 49 single family lots.
The reason for the call was that the city’s Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance requires any development of 50 units or more, must provide a percentage of affordable housing units. The question was, why 49 units? Is this another attempt to avoid the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance?
Well, in this case, it is not. When the original Development of Regional Impact for SouthWood was approved years ago, and before there was a city Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, SouthWood agreed to pay a fee instead of providing affordable housing. The initial fee was $150,000 for the first 1,000 units in the development. Less than the price for one home. After that, they pay a fee of $160 per unit. So this new 49-unit development will result $7,840 to support the development of affordable housing. That is likely less than half the price of one lot.
The SouthWood deal is done and we will have to live with it.
The Joint City/County Affordable Housing Workgroup, in its final report last October, recommended that the City and County “should have a cohesive inclusionary housing policy” to support a greater number of affordable housing units. To date, nothing has been done to make that happen.
There is a shortage now and it is getting worse. At the recent Chamber of Commerce Conference, the housing panel suggested we will have a shortage of over 8,000 affordable units in the next few years.
The city has an inclusionary zoning ordinance that needs to be updated. The county does not. Two things have happened in the past. One, developments in the city have been proposed for 48 or 49 units to avoid the 50-unit trigger. Two, development in the county have been platted for more than 50 units and when approved, the developer then moves to have the property annexed into the city, thereby avoiding the city’s affordable housing requirement but having access to city services.
Why a uniform policy for the city and county? First to avoid the situation noted above and second to create a more economically diverse community. We are one of the most economically segregated cities in the country and research shows that communities that are more diverse are more successful over time.
To develop a “cohesive inclusionary housing policy,” it is going to take a process that involves a variety of groups that will have an interest in this issue. It won’t be an easy task. It won’t happen quickly. But it needs to happen, and the City and County Commissions have to get the process started.