Affordable housing at forefront in Manatee County

IMG 1409Manatee - The type of affordable housing being built in Manatee County right now is the wrong kind of housing, according to Andy Reasoner, with Royal Palm Terrace Apartments.

“We have to build a different kind of housing to deal with low and very low (income) and especially homeless,” said Reasoner, who is on the county’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee. “What we are building now economically will not work.”

On Monday afternoon, the advisory board tasked with reviewing Manatee County codes for any barriers to developing affordable housing in Manatee County got to work. The Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, which is mandated by Florida Statute, met for the first time since Nov. 17, 2014.

Diana Shoemaker, executive director of Manatee County Habitat for Humanity, was appointed chairwoman of the advisory committee.

“You act as a liaison to make recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners of any changes that are needed within Land Development Code and Comprehensive Plan,” Denise Thomas, the county’s housing and community development coordinator, told the committee Monday. “Everybody has a different perspective of affordable housing and the needs. Each of you sees it from a different perspective.”

While the advisory board only has to meet at the minimum every three years, affordable housing is a large concern within Manatee County, according to Thomas.

“We are hearing from all audiences that there is a challenge of getting affordable housing,” she said. “The plight is there and each of you have a different interest and that is why we are here to address those concerns.”

The advisory committee will have to “think outside the box and come up with creative solutions,” said committee member Shaun Koby.

“We are going to have to create structures that are different and that make sense,” he said.

There are families living in cars on the street, according to Donald Hill with Turning Points.

“What we really need is some plan for these people to be able to afford to live,” he said. “They have no place to live. They are living in the streets.”

Commissioner Charles Smith, who attended Monday’s meeting, said Manatee County is lacking affordable housing.

“We are years behind,” he said. “It is not just homeless. It is not just the one who got in trouble with the law. It is the ones right here that can’t afford a home. ...We are looking at you for making recommendations to us. We need strong recommendations from the advisory board. We really need that.”

The commission will continue the housing discussion Tuesday when they will hear recommendations from county staff about ways to address the housing situation in the county. The work session begins at 9 a.m. in the Manatee Room of the county administration building.

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