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City Effort To Get More Houses For Lower Income Earners Moving Forward

A white house with blue shutters rests behind a picket fence covered in roses
David Sawyer via Flickr

Housing for working class people is part of a planned Tallahassee development.  While officials passed an ordinance to support housing aimed at working class residents years ago, this is the first time it is being put to use.

Inclusionary housing is housing for people who make less than the area’s median income. For one person, that’s somewhere in the $40,000 range. Commissioner Nancy Miller says in many cases those are people who are working class and even employed by the local government.

“When this was discussed it was really discussed as workforce housing because it was a tremendous emphasis on trying to find homes that were in a price range of people that we as the city of Tallahassee pay—like police officers and public servants of all stripes—teachers. I mean to be a teacher and be a single person is challenging," Miller says

The ordinance requires a certain number of homes in a development with more than 50 single family units, to be inclusionary. But Miller says some developers have been skirting the rules.

This ordinance has been on the books for years and nobody is really using it and what I’ve heard is stories like instead of building 50 units, some people build 49, or that sort of thing So, I think it’s really important that these get out there and get on the ground,” Miller says.

But Mayor Andrew Gillum argues there are other reasons the inclusionary housing ordinance hasn’t been triggered until now.

“There are a lot of reasons thrown out there as to why no one has taken advantage of it. My understanding is Evening Rose was coming through and was preparing to take advantage of it and then the bottom fell out of the real estate market and that project never got built in the way that was intended. But in the city limits there’s just not enough acreage outside of Southwood and the English property and obviously now this new parcel that was have brought on that Ghazvini is involved in that provided enough acreage for us to accomplish it,” Gillum says.

The homes are slated to remain as inclusionary for 10 years. After that they’ll return the normal market value. Gillum says he’d like to extend that time frame for future developments.

“To me the only downside should there be one is to the individual who has the home and may wish to sell it after the 10 years expire, that they won’t get the benefit of the full market value of the home. I’m not concerned by that because I think the larger public value is of interest. The reason why government is in this conversation at all is because we recognize the need for expanded affordable housing inventory. Outside of that we have not business here other than approving somebody’s land for permits and that kind of thing," Gillum says.

Inclusionary housing differs slightly from affordable housing. Michael Parker is the city’s director of Community Housing and Human Services. He says affordable housing is typically aimed at people who make less than 80 percent of the area median income, or AMI. The city’s inclusionary housing is intended to help people who make anywhere from 70 to 100 percent AMI find housing.

It’s based on family size, so for example, for a family of four, right now the maximum income for a family of four at 80 percent of AMI $50,400 so you translate up that it would probably be somewhere in the area of $62,000 for a family of four would represent 100 percent of area median income," Parker says.

The inclusionary houses in the new development, which is near the Welaunee property, are slated to sell for a maximum of $224,000, with the average sales price expected to be about $186,000. In exchange for building the inclusionary housing, the developer gets more flexibility when it comes to rules regarding density and setback.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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