St. Pete housing committee concerned about proposed housing bill

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St. Petersburg’s housing, land use and transportation committee met to discuss affordable housing on Thursday. Affordable Housing Committee Chair Scott McDonald presented information to St. Pete council members on how affordable and workforce housing is funded. Workforce housing serves households that make 80 percent and 120 percent. And according to McDonald, workforce housing is harder to fund. 

Workforce housing harder to fund

“When it comes to workforce housing, there’s really far fewer federal resources available to address that issue,” McDonald said. “Which is why we see a lot of state and local incentives, including Penny for Pinellas dollars going into those deals.”

That means more money coming from local governments. According to McDonald, affordable housing is a household spending no more than 30 percent of annual income on housing, including utilities. Those projects are funded mostly by the federal low-income housing tax credit program. Pinellas County gets one affordable development each year. McDonald says that’s just not enough.

“When you think about that being the only guaranteed tax credit for financing a multifamily deal,” McDonald said. “That’s really not even making a drop in the bucket of you know, the issue that we face with Affordable Housing.”

New proposed bill could limit local housing fund access

Council member Brandi Gabbard raised concerns about proposed legislation in Tallahassee that would impact how housing funds are distributed locally. Outgoing Republican Senator Jeff Brandes filed a bill (SB 1170) this week revising the state’s housing assistance program. Municipalities would no longer qualify for those funds. Instead counties would be in charge of distribution.

“What will be the challenge for developers?” Gabbard said. “If all of those resources are just going to the county, for us to be able to work with our development community? Or do we have any thoughts on that? Because I’m very concerned.”

Senator Brandes’s bill now has a house companion. McDonald says it could create a larger pot of money for communities that need it most. But overall, the proposed legislation presents more challenges than improvements when it comes to affordable housing. 

“Yes, it would create another layer of red tape,” McDonald said. “It would create the administration of those funds, which is you know, right now, developers working with cities, and now would shift to cities having to work with the county and then developers, so a lot of challenges.”

St. Pete City Council is slated to take up the issue of affordable housing, and the possibility of rent control soon.

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