Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas County affordable housing report doesn't ring true

CLEARWATER — Pinellas County Commissioner Norm Roche listened to the report on the county's affordable housing programs and thought the results seemed too good to be true.

Over the past three years, community development director Anthony Jones told commissioners Tuesday, affordable housing projects created 9,817 jobs — despite high unemployment and a real estate collapse.

"That ought to be front-page news," said Roche, his voice laced with sarcasm.

Roche was right to be skeptical, as that estimate — along with others Jones offered Tuesday — missed the mark.

Based on the formula Jones cites — $1 million in housing money creates 77 jobs — the correct job creation estimate for the county's $27 million spending is closer to 2,079 jobs.

The county report incorrectly lumped $100 million in private investment with the county's spending.

Mark Hendrickson, a financial consultant for governments who authored the formula in 2009, confirmed that Jones used the measure incorrectly.

"If that's the case, maybe he needs to clarify any of the stats that were mistaken to the commission," Commissioner John Morroni said hours after the meeting, where he called the information great.

Tuesday evening after questions from a Times reporter, Jones sent an e-mail to commissioners saying "we may have made an error." He also said information was provided to him, or it was the best his office could find.

But he stood behind his report as a broader indicator of housing trends and his agency's accomplishments with a $62.5 million portfolio of 1,600 loans.

Commissioners had asked for a review of housing programs after questions persisted among members about what the county accomplishes. A zinging audit last year blasted community development, which oversees the county's affordable housing programs, for shoddy record keeping, questionable concessions to developers and being too cozy with the firms it works with.

A review of housing programs ordered by County Administrator Bob LaSala in the wake of the audit is not yet complete.

Jones' presentation Tuesday also cited the average sales price for a Pinellas home at $208,500 last year — an unexpectedly high figure that caught the eyes of Roche and Morroni, who has worked as a Realtor.

That's because the median sales price —which was $154,000 in 2010 — is more commonly used because it reduces skewing by extremes at both ends of the market. In fact, a financial expert commenting on that part of Jones' report used the median price in his talk, as did other real estate industry speakers.

Jones said his office used the only information available, which was from the Property Appraiser's Office. But the median price is included on the same report on the appraiser's site.

Jones' report also said only 36 of the 889 foreclosed homes in 2010 in Pinellas involved home buyers assisted by his agency.

But that foreclosure count is actually only for December — which Jones acknowledged — a time frame that doesn't include most of the real estate spiral.

There have been 47,252 foreclosure cases filed in Pinellas since 2007, including 10,946 last year.

"I didn't do the research," Jones said.

LaSala, who said he did not preview the report, declined to comment until he could evaluate the data.

Jones said he didn't feel any added scrutiny from the board, attributing the questions to having new commissioners.

But budget pressure is looming.

Roche wants to shift some of the $15 million from the Penny for Pinellas sales tax away from affordable housing to other projects.

Roche has questioned the effectiveness of the housing programs, including whether people who received county aid ended up in the housing meltdown.

In response, Jones led a three-hour presentation Tuesday from a dozen speakers, many of whom do business with county housing programs. Most spoke in support of the county's affordable housing work, noting that tightening credit and higher standards for down payments were crimping first-time buyers.

Also, they said, foreclosed homes aren't easy to purchase, with cash buyers making up a large part of the market.

Janna Sosebee told commissioners that the $107,500 home she's buying in Clearwater would have been out of reach for years without the $8,000 deferred loan from the county.

"I appreciate the fact that this down payment assistance is not a handout," said Sosebee, who is single and an administrator for a financial adviser.

David DeCamp can be reached at or (727) 893-8779.

Pinellas County affordable housing report doesn't ring true 03/15/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 10:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Car bomb kills 13, injures 24 in Baghdad; Islamic State claims responsibility


    BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded outside a popular ice cream shop in central Baghdad just after midnight today, killing 13 people and wounding 24, hospital and police officials said.

  2. Leaping shark floors angler in Australia


    In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway's protagonist battles for three days to pull in his prized catch. For Terry Selwood, it came a little more suddenly.

    A 9-foot shark lies on the deck of a fishing boat at Evans Head, Australia on Sunday. Fisherman Terry Selwood said he was left with a badly bruised and bleeding right arm where the shark struck him with a fin as it landed on him on the deck. [Lance Fountain via AP]
  3. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  4. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber


    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  5. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant


    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]