National and Local Initiatives to Address Florida’s Affordable Housing Crisis
A Moment With … is an opinion piece in which the Palm Beach Post Editorial Board asks community leaders what they think about issues affecting our community and the state. Suzanne Cabrera, President and CEO of the Housing Leadership Council of Palm Beach County, Inc. shares her concerns about the affordable housing crisis in Florida.
1. The lack of affordable housing in South Florida is an ongoing problem. Are there any signs that this problem can finally be fixed?
Yes, we are making a lot of progress in addressing the housing affordability crisis. Our first step was a housing needs assessment which showed how serious the problem is in our county and it was worse than we could have imagined. A steering committee, made up of community leaders and housing stakeholders, has met monthly for the past few years to develop a plan. Our plan addresses incentives, regulatory barriers, neighborhood / community revitalization and funding options. The plan will also be viewed from a racial equity perspective. The catalyst will be a bond issue generating between 150 and 200 million dollars, which will begin to fill the deficit of units. Having this county-wide plan will make the difference. If we fund and implement the plan, we can make a significant difference in Palm Beach County.
2. There have been changes in the way the state will distribute Sadowski funds for affordable housing. Will this help resolve the crisis?
Last year, the legislature passed legislation that will impact our local share of the state’s housing trust fund. Over the past few years we have had to fight for funds to be allocated, but the change ensures that the funds will not be wiped out and will be included in the budget. However, the legislation also provides that half of the funding will be used for purposes other than affordable housing. So we have a guarantee – but only for 50% of the funds. And so far we have an indication that we will see these funds as the governor’s just released budget includes $ 355.4 million for housing. We now wait to see what the House and Senate will do in their state budget recommendations over the next few weeks.
3. What can local governments do to help police, firefighters, teachers and other key workers afford to live in or near their local communities?
Local governments can play a huge role in encouraging the types of housing we need and taking measures such as adding density to projects that will include affordable units. They can also provide more flexibility in planning and zoning, remove or reduce the impact of fees and permit fees, and speed up the process so developers can afford to add labor units. work. Their policies must reflect the kind of development we need for our community so that their workforce can afford to live locally.
4. Have you seen any initiatives outside of Florida that could work here to help solve the problem?
As part of our planning process, we reviewed hundreds of housing plans across the country and assessed the success of those plans. We have incorporated the most successful aspects that we believe would translate into our specific challenges, such as land constraints and accompanying property prices.
5. Is the lack of affordable housing a problem that South Florida will simply have to endure for the foreseeable future?
It is and will continue to be a challenge for our community, but there is hope. We’ve been working on solutions for over a decade and have made progress with strategies such as inclusive zoning, impact fee assistance, community land trusts, but it’s hard to keep up with the level of growth that we know. This is one of the reasons why dramatic action is needed. We believe that the bond issuance will provide the necessary catalyst to boost efforts to address this crisis.