REGIONAL WORKSHOP ON EMPLOYER ASSISTED AFFORDABLE HOUSING-Andrew Stelzer

05/05/06

Last October, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council held an all day workshop on affordable housing, bringing together over 100 business, non profit and government employees to discuss the dwindling stock of affordable housing in the region and come up with some solutions. One of the potential action steps has been employer-based solutions to workforce housing, and 20 local business and government officials gathered in Pinellas Park this morning to discuss some of the potential options. Avera Wynne the Planning Director of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council set the stage by explaining what workforce housing is.

ACT-Wynne “What does it mean..not slum developments, we re talking about essential workers, police, what’s the employer assisted…its communications workers�p>

Stan Fitterman with the Florida Housing Coalition said that 10 years ago, housing in the bay area was priced reasonably for members of the workforce.p>

ACT-Fitterman “If you lived in Tampa bay in 95, 36000 median could afford 90k home, you had a wide choice of housing….fast forward 10 years median income has gone up to 52k, but median sales price is 193k..so prices have gone up 144% incomes have gone up 40k…�p>

Fitterman said that Florida is unique in that it has an affordable housing trust fund to help people afford homes, however, the current governor and legislature wont fully fund it---this year there is 400 million dollars which will be withheld from the counties and people who could use it. He said the problem is being exacerbated by people moving to Florida from other states or other countries.p>

ACT-Fitterman “So we have people leaving LI for 600k, they think this is a bargain, if they still work they have no housing cost, so as a result our prices are going up faster than incomers people who have to work cant afford to buy a house..�p>

Some of the suggested ways in which employers can help solve the housing crisis are to participate in education and marketing programs, so that their employees know what kid of government assistance is available, or to create programs where they assist. They can offer mortgage assistance, and local governments can match that assistance. In Pinellas county, only 1.8 percent of rental apartments are vacant, and rents have gone up 11%. More than 40 thousand Pinellas county residents pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing. Anthony Jones, with the Pinellas county community development department, said that money laid out by businesses will come back to save them money in the long run.p>

ACT-jones “At some point, employers didn’t vcare about healthcare, we think it’s a benefit..helps with recruitment, retain people who have long commutes, help with economic development, where they can own and live..�p>

Dan Hoffman, who coined the term “employer assisted housing� said the university of Pennsylvania has helped their employees buy homes and it has paid off.p>

ACT-Hoffman “The university of Pennsylvania created mortgage guarantee 35 years ago didn’t mean a down payment, turned out in the first 30 years, no defaults so the guarantee cost the university nothing, the university created the program, because it was a disaster area…they wanted to fix the neighborhood up, the neighborhood is now prestigious they figured out that good employees make good neighbors..those homeowners maintained neighborhoods..the rest of the city’s employees didn’t follow the lead…they thought you have to be like Penn and have an endowment…we said that’s the wrong lesson to lean, we created a different program and said to employer –match it..from now we have brought in several dozen new employers we’ve also brought ins mall non profits…�p>

The need for public transportation was also discussed, at a similar workshop on Thursday, transportation was voted as the most important and most feesable solution.p>

ACT-Hoffman “For a long time, what we know as a housing problem has been roads and transportation.. if they weren’t driving from home to work…�p>

And Jones from Pinellas county, said employers can get involved before housing is even built.p>

ACT Jones “This developer is developing this project, there will be 7 affordable, that employer connected with the hospital and they are working together lets work together..were moving to a stage now where they are talking about other property..�p>

Joseph Narkiewicz, vice president of the Tampa Bay builders association, said he was concerned that suggestions like inclusionary zoning, and changing the regulations to try and force the construction of affordable housing are only now being considered.p>

ACT- “We see regulations then they ignore us now they want to regulate their way out of it..�p>

Frederick Sampson is with Florida Homes LLC, which builds modular homes. He says the ideas he heard are good in theory.p>

ACT “I think its all bout funding…where the funds are coming from and how to implement thosep>

Manny Pumarienga, with the planning council, described what the state legislature has done in passing an affordable housing bill. He said its important that advocates involve themselves in the rule making process that will go on over the next few months, because that will determine the real effectiveness of the bill.p>

To see the results of the past two days of workshops of affordable housing, log onto www.tbrpc.org

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