As the cost of housing continues to strain local workers, Manatee County is taking steps to address the need for affordable housing to prevent homelessness.
Manatee County commissioners approved a slew of initiatives Tuesday that they hope will address both issues, creating a community land trust, a zoning district that allows more tailored restrictions, and a homelessness task force.
In case you missed it: Bradenton and Manatee propose changes to comprehensive plans to address affordable housing
Community Land Trust
At the request of Commissioner George Kruse, the board voted to direct county staff to create a Manatee County-owned and operated Community Land Trust. Staff will present the concept to commissioners for approval at a future date.
A community land trust allows the county to own land while another owns the home built on top of it. It is a way for residents who rent their living space because they do not earn enough money to purchase a home without purchasing the land to bridge the gap into homeownership, which officials say is a better investment than renting.
The county will work with the Bright Community Trust, or another land trust manager, to establish a pilot program in north Manatee County.
More limits on zoning
Commissioners unanimously directed staff to begin work on creating a Standard Zoning Limited District in the land development code. The district allows more restrictions to be placed on properties that apply for a rezone to ensure they do not deviate from approved uses or maintain specific stipulations.
Examples presented during the meeting included ensuring a commercial property rezone into commercial use to build a pharmacy does not then build a liquor store because of the lack of restrictions in the new zoning. The new district also could be used to restrict common concerns often raised during the rezoning process, such as hours of operation, use of outdoor speakers, or creation of outdoor dining, among other things.
County-owned properties under review
Commissioners unanimously voted to research and advertise comprehensive plan amendments and rezone five county-owned tracts of land that could be developed as affordable homes.
In some instances, those parcels are located on land that only allows three homes per acre. Tuesday’s vote would allow staff to increase density on those properties to increase the value of the land. In another instance, the county owns a tract of land zoned for light manufacturing that could be rezoned for residential use.
If successful, the effort would create either more homes that could be sold at an affordable housing price, or sold at the market rate with the proceeds being deposited into a dedicated affordable housing fund.
Creating half-dwelling units
The county is creating a new designation known as a half-dwelling unit in its land development code, following a unanimous vote during Tuesday’s meeting. It would be defined as a multi-family residential unit measuring 750 square feet or less.
Residential zoning as of right, land banking, and density bonus buyouts under consideration
Manatee County staff is researching other initiatives pitched during Tuesday’s meeting without formal votes.
Staff will research the potential effect of implementing residential zoning throughout all of Manatee County, including areas currently zoned for commercial or industrial use. The concept would allow employers to build housing on their properties for their employees, or to allow developers to build homes near industrial areas where market rates would likely be lowered because of proximity to those facilities.
Commissioners also asked staff to research ways to create an “aggressive” land banking initiative. The effort would allow the county to purchase land, rezone it for higher densities, implement deed restrictions that require affordable housing, then resell it to private developers.
Staff will also research ways to implement an effort to monetize density bonuses that are offered to developers in exchange for workforce housing. The concept would allow developers to build projects at densities that are typically only granted if a certain amount of workforce housing is constructed to instead build market-rate homes if they pay a fee. Proceeds would then be used by the county to fund affordable housing efforts.
New Homeless Program positions
Commissioners voted unanimously to create a homeless program coordinator position to help spearhead the county’s efforts to address homelessness. The position would also facilitate communication between the county and local organizations that work to address homelessness.
The board also approved the creation of a grant writer position to capture federal and state dollars available to address homelessness.
Housing Crisis Response System
Commissioners directed county staff to coordinate with the cities of Bradenton and Palmetto and initiate a study with the Florida Housing Coalition to develop a housing crisis response system.
Homeless crisis task force
County commissioners asked staff to create a homeless crisis task force as a part of the existing Public Safety Council. The task force is meant to bring representatives from different entities that provide homelessness services together in a formal setting. Commissioners would give final approval of the task force at a future meeting.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Manatee County approves affordable housing, homelessness programs