Let’s talk about affordable housing.
Those folks in the green shirts who showed up at the June 16 planning and development commission meeting wanted to talk about affordable housing. As in, they didn’t want it in their Meadowcrest neighborhood.
The developer with the affordable housing idea pointed to two other similar projects he’s done in Citrus County, and how nice they turned out. The residents didn’t care.
County planners reminded them that the land in question is set for commercial. Neighbors could have this pleasant-looking apartment complex or risk staring at the rear of a strip mall or — shudder! — a car wash.
They didn’t care. They only knew what they DIDN’T want.
The PDC agreed and recommended the county commission not approve the Meadowcrest master plan change to allow the affordable housing complex. County commissioners have the final say.
(PDC member Stacey Worthington, a District 2 commission candidate, indicated support for the project during discussion but joined in the unanimous vote recommending denial.)
I bring this up because we need to talk about affordable housing so that county commission candidates can start bantering around some ideas to address it.
That term gets plenty of pushback because of some backdated view of what we mean by affordable housing. First off, and I’m being as polite about this as I can, but some people have really got to join the 21st century. Affordable housing isn’t 1970s Starsky and Hutch busting down apartment doors in dark hallways at 2 in the morning.
What's on the table these days are just nice, affordable apartments. Why is this a harm to the community? If these were rich people apartments, would that make a difference? I don’t get it.
I’m not big on political correctness, so I really don’t care what we call it. Affordable housing seems logical to me. An affordable place to live. Monthly rents that ordinary working folks can handle without squeezing every last dime of their paycheck.
Some people complain that government-assisted housing is bad. Here’s a quote from one email a longtime Pine Ridge resident sent last week to Commissioner Ruthie Davis Schlabach:
“If we want to maintain our county as a desirable place to live, we must attract residents who contribute to the county and do not require subsidizing.”
I looked up the resident's property information and found, as expected, several thousand dollars taken off the taxable value by homestead exemption. That exemption spells less money coming into the county.
So…isn’t that tax subsidy? Is his house affordable without the exemption? Would sunny Florida have the influx of residents if we didn’t give away the farm in property taxable value?
I don’t oppose the exemption. But homeowners can’t take it and then pretend they’re not getting a tax break. To look down on a government program that helps people essentially accomplish the same thing — an affordable, decent place to live — seems extreme.
That said, it seems the county can do more to help site affordable housing locations to avoid the Meadowcrest situation. We have economic development strategies designed to assist manufacturers with that same thing. Surely there are appropriate and smart spots for affordable apartments, duplexes and houses.
Everyone knows about the price of housing going sky high in the last year or so. Homes are no longer affordable for many people. Rents are crazy. What are we to do about that? Say, “oh well, that’s tough, but we have standards, you see.” What are these standards? They sound fear-based to me.
That’s not the Citrus County I know. Our community finds a solution to this dilemma, not go immediately into our corners and come out spewing rhetoric but little more.
I know this isn’t easy. That’s why we need county commissioners who are zeroed in on trying to find avenues, not obstacles, for affordable housing.
(Sometimes the county makes it harder than necessary. For another day soon…Habitat of Humanity’s roadblocks with the Citrus County government over its Citrus Springs project.)
That begins with the District 2 and District 4 candidates. It’s a difficult challenge that will need workable solutions. Now’s a good time for that chat.
Reminder: Chronicle candidates forum at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Citrus County Fairgrounds auditorium, 3600 S. Florida Ave., Inverness. Doors open at 5 p.m.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.