This is my first official post so I will proceed with more of a question than an article... more of food for debate!
I just closed an amazing loan for a client referred to me by a Realtor I have been helping get started. It was a tough one with minimal income and ok but marginal credit. I used a Neighborhood program and got him in with a great rate etc... it is a great first-time homebuyer/affordable housing story that I'm sure to tell many times over... it got me thinking about affordable housing and the people I've worked with. I had one person making $30K a year driving a truck and no credit that wanted a $250K CBS 3/2 house of 1500sf + fence... the unit I just helped my client close on was a 2/2 850sf 1st floor condo and in a nice area! That's a HUGE difference but a logical first step into homeownership.
The food for fodder is:
Who is ultimately responsible for bringing more "affordable" housing to Florida and Palm Beach County? Builders? County/Municipal officials? Special Interest Groups?
Who decided that $300K is affordable?
Why was it decided that developers should carve out a few units in high end developments and charge bottom barrel prices for them just to satisfy a quota?
And the question that is likely to get me in trouble:
Why do affordable housing zealots require that developments MUST be CBS and SFH? I know hurricane safety plays a role but if the construction costs are that much higher, then it obviously will price out of the market. I do NOT agree with the PBC Commissioner that said to a trailer park community that "Some people may not have the right to live in PBC if they can't afford it" (paraphrase) - I believe that PBC has to create affordability in areas that are feasible for commuting and supply better infrastructure to support them. But why is a villa community or a townhouse community valued so much less? Why are workforce condos so hard to get passed yet they solve a need AND are typically more affordable to produce given density lowers per unit land cost?
I am originally from Louisville, KY and the County and City (now merged) have done MIRACLES with affordable housing. Sure land is MUCH cheaper there... but a lot of the land that is used is either held by the city/state or older homes torn down to replace with newer homes. There are at least 15 builders that I know that do nothing else but affordable housing with city/state/federal grants to help people get in and homebuyer/owner programs sponsored by HUD.
I know there is no easy fix.. but perhaps the expectations of the administrators are currently too high and therefore the solutions are too convoluted... Other cities/counties/states have much better solutions even when land prices are so high. Chicago has high land costs but they conquer it with density.
Here are the three ideas I feel like exploring:
1) Easier adjustment of Height and Density restrictions per Zoning Commission
2) Lowering the bar on tolerances - keep things in code but affordable shouldn't mean CBS, SFH-detached in all circumstances
3) Incenting builders with cheap, outlying, county land to build smaller and tighter (I know it is hard to fathom that houses can get CLOSER... but I'm sure it can work somehow) and perhaps focussing on parks for an area rather than huge green-area restrictions per community.
"Discuss Amongst Yourselves" - Linda Richmond, aka Mike Myers, Coffee Talk