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Pinellas' proposal on affordable housing raises questions

Largo city commissioners said Tuesday that they have concerns about a county proposal that would require developers to include affordable housing in their projects.

At a work session, the commissioners asked staffers to relay their questions to the county.

"We also would like to investigate to see if there are elements of the county's proposal that can be incorporated to meet Largo's goals," said Robert Klute, the assistant director of community development.

The Pinellas County Commission recently asked municipalities to consider a mandatory inclusionary housing program. The ordinance would apply to developments of 20 dwellings or more. Up to 15 percent of the units would have to be set aside at below-market rates.

Developers would have several options under the proposal. If they agreed to include affordable housing, they could receive density bonuses of up to 50 percent and build more housing than zoning laws allow. They could also request to make the affordable housing units smaller and with fewer amenities or build units in other parts of the county.

If developers did not want to include affordable units, they could donate land for construction of affordable housing or pay into a trust fund.

The concerns Largo commissioners discussed Tuesday include:

• The county proposal could conflict with the city's existing housing incentive programs.

• It's not known who would administer the ordinance and the economic impact is unknown.

• There are no safeguards to prevent single units from being scattered around the city.

• Large projects could create pockets of density throughout Largo that would conflict with the adopted land use plan.

• The proposal is so broadly stated it could be ineffective.

Largo isn't the only locality that is skittish about adopting a mandatory standard for including affordable housing in new development. Earlier this month, Seminole voted to opt out of the county's ordinance proposal.

Largo currently has a voluntary approach to affordable housing, and gives density bonuses to developers who choose to include affordable housing in their projects.

But Mayor Pat Gerard said additional measures may be needed.

"If we are serious about having affordable housing in this county," she said, "we may have to do something that's mandatory."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at dalee@sptimes.com or 445-4174.

>>Fast facts

Where things stand

• County officials have been working on an "inclusionary housing" ordinance for three years.

• Pinellas would be the first government in the Tampa Bay area to pass such an ordinance. A handful of Florida cities and counties have done so.

• The rules would apply countywide, but cities could opt out. Seminole already has.

Times files

Pinellas' proposal on affordable housing raises questions 06/24/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 26, 2008 5:03pm]

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