Available, affordable housing is becoming more by the day, leaving lawmakers and city planners scrambling for possible solutions to this ever-growing problem. With several shopping centers and plazas being decimated by the pandemic and general economic decline, do these unique structures present a potential opportunity to solve this issue?
There is legislation coming forward this spring that would build upon a law passed previously in 2020 that makes it easier to convert vacant retail space into affordable housing for Floridians.
The new legislation includes incentives for counties and cities to redevelop vacant commercial space into housing, building upon the previous legislation that streamlined the development process by eliminating the need to rezone a property not previously designated for housing.
Skyrocketing rent has made living near the coast impossible for many lower-middle and low-income people, yet many work in these areas and are forced to take multi-hour commutes to get there. By creating affordable housing in the regions where people work, lawmakers can dramatically improve the lives of residents and help rebuild areas that were otherwise economically destroyed by the pandemic and everything that followed.
Despite the advancement of legislation that makes it easier than ever for municipalities to convert vacant commercial space into affordable housing, adoption has been slower than predicted or expected. Last year, St. Petersburg became the first city in the state to use the law actively, approving the conversion of a former lumber yard into 264 affordable apartment units.
Other governments, including Volusia county and the city of Cutler Bay, have explored options like converting malls into housing. However, these options are projected to be “market-rate” housing, which isn’t affordable for many residents.
Other cities, like Sarasota, have taken steps to ease the development of mixed-use projects along its busier commercial streets, including provisions to encourage developers to add “attainable housing” for residents at or below 120% of the median income of the area.
In Florida, abandoned or vacant shopping strips, plazas, and centers are abundant, lining major thoroughfares throughout cities in the state, with access to nearby transit and other infrastructure. By converting these otherwise derelict properties into affordable housing, lawmakers can aid the millions of residents considered cost-burdened or housing unstable.
Check out this great article from Florida Realtors for more.
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