Housing crisis

Local governments agree to work together to solve the local affordable housing crisis

BRADENTON — On Thursday, the Manatee County Commission and Bradenton City Council came together for a joint meeting to discuss several areas of cross-cutting concern and impact for each governing body. Topics discussed included affordable/workforce housing and how the two local governments could effectively work together to find concrete steps to address this growing issue facing residents of Bradenton and Manatee County. .

The priority area identified where possible solution options for the Commission and City Council to work on together was the Local Entity Comprehensive Plans.

A comprehensive plan is the long-range planning document for cities and counties. The compensation plan defines a community’s vision and establishes the associated goals, objectives, and policies that should guide decision-making toward achieving said vision. A compensation plan touches on nearly every facet of a community’s quality of life, addressing land use and transportation, environment and resources, parks and utilities, and even historic preservation.

A well-designed comprehensive plan is created to be dynamic. As the needs and physical elements of the community change (through development and redevelopment), the compensation plan can be modified to adapt to changing circumstances and conditions so that it can continue to provide sound advice to decision makers. The adaptability of a community’s compensation plan can help ensure that short-term decisions are made for the long-term good.

State law requires local compensation plans to be reviewed once every seven years, although local governments are permitted to make a limited number of updates per calendar year during those seven years. Changes to the compensation plan must meet the requirements of public hearings and receive state approval.

An overall plan lays the foundations of the land use planning code. The land use planning code establishes regulations, procedures and standards for the review and approval of development and land use to implement the future vision of the community described in the overall plan.

County Commission Chairman Kevin Van Ostenbridge opened Thursday’s joint meeting discussion by explaining that he and Bradenton Mayor Gene Brown had recent discussions regarding the county’s and city’s compensation plans. town. Van Ostenbridge told those in attendance that both entities – based on his discussion with Mayor Brown – are interested in addressing their compensation plans to provide more incentive and opportunity for affordable housing development and for labor -work.

Van Ostenbridge suggested that perhaps a strategy towards a more unified approach between city and county could be if the two were to use the same planning firm, at the same time. The company would help neighboring governments review their compensation plans to identify possible changes that could support workforce housing development.

County Commissioner Misty Servia, a certified planner with years of experience in Manatee County, pointed out that shared city-county boundaries can provide a basis for discussions about where it might make sense for the two governments to develop common regulations. Unified regulations in specific target areas, Servia said, could make it easier for developers who might be interested in developing affordable housing.

Servia said density regulations were a specific area the two governments could work on together. “There may be an opportunity to increase densities and work hand in hand, she said.

In terms of development, one way to achieve density is to increase height permits. Allowing structures to rise in height can provide space above what the terrain itself could accommodate on its own.

One possible option for creating a unified solutions approach suggested by Servia could be something like an inter-local agreement or a “memorandum of understanding” between the city and the county. An official statement that both jurisdictions want quality affordable housing for their citizens, and an outline of how they will work together to achieve this goal.

Commissioner George Kruse, who currently sits on the county’s Affordable Housing Advisory Council, confirmed the mutual priority.

“We hear from everyone that this is the most important thing on everyone’s mind, and rightly so,” Kruse said. “Where you live is critically important.”

Kruse noted the mutual understanding between government councils. While both entities agree on the urgency and priority of the issue, Kruse noted that the challenge is to “get it done”.

Kruse acknowledged that the collective conversation was long overdue and cited the independent nature that has so far been the norm, suggesting that a more collaborative effort to solve the problem might prove more productive.

“At some point, we all have to come together and say, okay, everyone has to contribute something for the good of Manatee County,” Kruse said, emphasizing the mutual need to identify where the community can be. better served by increased density.

Kruse’s view was that much of the increases should be concentrated downtown and in the urban core.

“If we bring people closer to their jobs, we help our infrastructure by taking cars off the road, we help transportation costs, which can improve quality of life and cost of living,” Kruse explained, “ so we have to figure out how to get the highest density here (downtown).”

“Land is expensive, but air is free,” Kruse added while detailing the benefit of increased density through height regulations that can allow citizens to pay a lower overall cost for renting or the purchase of units at several levels. This goal would be achieved, Kruse said, because the height allows for the cushioning of the terrain via the increasing density of units.

City Council member Marianne Barnebey fully agreed with much of what she heard from commissioners at Thursday’s meeting, but she encouraged the idea that not all density increases should not focus only on the urban core. Barnebey cited existing needs elsewhere in the county centralized around schools, utilities and other areas of the county housing labor citizens.

Barnebey emphasized the importance of citizen input into the decision-making process, a necessary effort towards education of the different types of housing terms and definitions, as well as collaborative efforts to address housing needs and challenges. transportation material.

Vice Mayor Pam Coachman offered personal insights gained during her service as a councillor.

“Two things annoyed me the most when I became a councillor. First, government moves far too slowly,” Coachman shared with a smile, “and second, I don’t understand why government entities don’t work together. , more closely.”

Coachman’s comments were hopeful towards the mission of the two governments working together, saying, “All of our concerns are the same, and the only way to resolve them is to work together.”

Coachman agreed with Commissioner Servia’s suggestion of a “pilot” program or initiative – such as an inter-local agreement or memorandum – to lay the foundation for their collaborative goals and the actions they could undertake together.

Councilman Bill Sanders detailed the city’s success with waiving impact fees to encourage affordable housing development. Sanders also shared his agreement that transportation and connectivity should be an area of ​​interest between the two governments and their collaborative effort.

Other ideas shared among members present were housing trust funds, land reserves, employer-subsidized housing or transportation, an affordable housing pool fund, and mixed-use rezonings.

Although Thursday’s joint meeting did not produce any immediate policy decisions, it appeared to provide a solid basis for future discussions and collaborations. The tone was friendly, meaning there could be a unified path to solving one of the most immediate issues facing area residents.

Commissioner Reggie Bellamy closed the discussion by saying: “We have identified two or three areas where we can continue and then come back together in 90 days.”

Bellamy suggested councils do some independent research on some of the possible solution ideas and options discussed and come back with more information on how they could use those options collectively. Legal representation from the City of Bradenton, Manatee County and the Town of Palmetto may meet to discuss the legal aspects and requirements for the development of a common fund for affordable housing between the cities and the county.

The topic of a collaborative effort to address the need for affordable housing and workforce has been added to the agenda for the next Council of Governments meeting to include the Town of Palmetto and the School Board of Manatee in the discussion. Overall, members agreed to future meetings and joint discussions on common issues facing the cities and county, in hopes of ensuring continued momentum and future partnership toward their mutual goals.

Click on the video link below to replay Thursday’s joint meeting discussion on workforce housing.

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