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Pasco commission considers fee changes to encourage affordable housing

Market-priced apartments would lose their cost incentives under the plan.
West Pasco Government Center. Times (2019)
West Pasco Government Center. Times (2019) [ Special to the Times ]
Published Jun. 2, 2020

NEW PORT RICHEY — Proposed fee changes designed to encourage development of affordable housing for Pasco County got a first look and positive feedback from county commissioners on Tuesday.

But the plan also would take away incentives for development of market-priced apartments, a housing choice which has seen a surge in development in fast-growing areas like south central Pasco County. Developers told commissioners that there is demand for those apartments, and previous zoning approvals required such development in their projects.

The commission heard a plan that would reduce the mobility fees paid for affordable housing for low-income residents to zero, a savings of between $1,071 to $3,315 per unit in the urban zones and comparable savings in other zones. Mobility fees are charged to new construction to be sure that development mitigates for the impacts that it has on the community’s transportation system

To offset the reduction in fees paid for affordable housing, the amounts to be paid for market-level apartments would be set to rise. Under the proposed schedule, the multi-family unit costs would increase: 7 percent to $4,280 in urban service areas; 17 percent to $7,064 in the suburbs and 28 percent to $9,276 in rural areas.

Barbara Wilhite, representing Crown Community Development, said two projects she represents which were approved previously would be impacted by the increased fees, just as they were poised to move forward. She said she was hoping that they would not be hurt by the action.

Apartments are in high demand and provide amenities that many in search of housing options are looking for, argued Eric Gardno of the Bay Area Apartment Association. The commission’s changes "single out multi-family developers,'' he said.

But a colleague from the same organization said the portion of the change that helps low-income families is welcome. According to association vice president Wendy Milenkevich, 29 percent of Pasco’s population is considered low-income. "It is a challenge to build such projects,'' she said. A reduction in the mobility fees could be the difference "between an apartment being built or not.''

County staff said the plan meets comprehensive plan goals to promote the efficient use of infrastructure, an adequate supply of affordable housing and supports mixed use development and more efficient growth patterns. The planning commission agreed after their review of the proposal last month.

Tuesday was the first reading of the planned ordinance change with a final public hearing and decision is set for June 16. The proposed changes would take effect Sept. 1.

The idea of helping out affordable housing grew out of a discussion by commissioners during a February workshop. At that time, the commission also noted that the existing subsidies helping the market priced apartments were no longer needed.

Commission Chairman Mike Moore said Tuesday that if there were apartment developers who were going to think twice about their project because of the fee increases, that Pasco County would still benefit because it would likely mean construction of commercial and office sites.