Affordable housing: A tale of two counties
Written by WSLR News on Saturday, September 16, 2023
Two pending apartment projects in Manatee and Sarasota allow to compare and contrast.
By Johannes Werner
Original Air Date: Sept. 15, 2023
Host: It’s a tale of two worlds: While Manatee County is edging towards adding more than 1,000 units of workforce housing this year, developers in Sarasota seem to be unable or unwilling to respond to the needs of working people. Two rental apartment projects by commercial developers in Manatee County and in the City of Sarasota cleared major hurdles this week, and one of them is moving fast towards groundbreaking. While they are similar in size, one will offer 50 apartments that are considered affordable, the other will have none. Our news team compares and contrasts.
Johannes Werner: Yesterday, the Manatee County Planning Commission approved a site plan for an affordable housing project that had been fast-tracked by the county. Creekside Village, off 33rd Street and not far from US 301 in east Bradenton, will have 198 rentals in half a dozen two- and three-floor buildings. A quarter of those apartments will be affordable, half of those for tenants who make less than 80 percent of the area’s median household income. Creekside Village will have a clubhouse with pool and two playgrounds. The project came to the planning commission – via the County Commission – from the county’s Housing Rapid Response Team, which had certified the project for what they call “expedited permitting”.
Although it’s an infill project, surrounded by existing homes, most of the neighbors’ comments at the Manatee County Planning Commission meeting yesterday were YIMBY, rather the NIMBY.
Concerned neighbor: Overall, I think the property will probably be improved by this project. But we would certainly want attention paid to our concerns.
The Planning Commission did have to greenlight the fact that there is only one vehicle access route to the compound, and that the developer does not want to build a six-foot wall. The commission did that, and the six commissioners approved the project unanimously.
The Creekside Village is zooming through the approval process, and that’s a result of the housing rapid response system set up in Manatee County. The system is beginning to make a dent in the affordable housing crisis. Identifying surplus land owned by the county and other public entities in the area, dangling incentives in front of commercial developers, and speeding up the permitting process seems to work. Plans to build more than 1,000 affordable housing units are now on the books of the task force in Manatee County now.
Meanwhile, there’s a similar-sized project in the City of Sarasota, on the North Tamiami Trail, the thoroughfare that connects downtown with the airport and college campuses. This week, a commercial developer got the city’s Development Review Committee to approve their request to build the Calypso project – even though Roers Development wants to build up to 35 percent more apartments than current zoning allows, and even though none of the 225 apartments qualifies as affordable. So how did they do it? Roers found an obscure state statute – 403.892 to be precise – that incentivizes the use of graywater. The developer is arguing that, because the toilets in the apartment complex will be flushed with recycled water, they should be allowed to build not only more apartments, but also combine three lots to construct a nearly one-mile long continuous building.
At the meeting last week, city planners expressed concerns about garbage truck turns, a bus shelter, trees, setbacks, utility lines. But nobody talked about the elephants in the room – higher density, combining three properties for one big, continuous building, and the lack of affordable housing.
These issues will likely be discussed before the City Planning Board in October or November.
This has been Johannes Werner with WSLR News.