County officials unveiled Monday a new incentive program intended to encourage developers to build affordable housing.
The Livable Manatee program, which has been in the works since the spring, will offer financial incentives to developers if they build either single-family or multifamily developments in portions of the county. With an unanimous approval from the county’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee on Monday, Livable Manatee will go before the county commission on Aug. 8 for approval.
“We think it is going to bring quite a bit of development to Manatee County,” said Denise Thomas, the county’s housing and community development manager. “We are stepping really outside of the box and bringing something that is not traditional. We are hoping to be setting an example for others to follow.”
With approximately $3 million available, Manatee County would be enhancing the incentives, which has been “a real barrier to developing affordable housing,” currently offered under the recommended program, according to Geri Lopez, the county’s redevelopment and economic opportunity director.
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“That’s been one of the clear challenges that we have been hearing the community, the developers,” Lopez said.
Livable Manatee would have two parts — one is the homeownership incentive program and the second being the rental incentive program. Under both programs, which have certain restrictions such as location, the county would pay 100 percent of both the impact fees as well as facility investment fees for utilities for the affordable units.
“This is still very conceptual and preliminary, very much in draft form,” Lopez said. “Overall, we are thinking the incentive at least for single family will be about $15,000 per unit. This is a significant investment.”
While this program would be a start, Lopez said she expects the county will spend the approximately $3 million set aside for the affordable housing incentives in two to three years.
“We really weren’t making any dent in spending the dollars,” she said. “We feel that this is a really good start. We have this program. We have this funding. ...This is a very diffcult challenge. There are no easy solutions to it.”
During Monday’s advisory committee meeting, members encouraged the county to consider an ongoing funding source for the incentive in the future.
“We got to keep funding it,” said Diana Shoemaker, the advisory committee’s chairwoman. “This can really be a win program.”
Everybody has affordable housing on their radar, committee member Samuel “Andy” Reasoner said.
“There is no question that you are going to get some people’s attention,” he said.
In the county’s research, Thomas said they couldn’t find any other counties doing what they are proposing.
“We are stepping out of the box and leading the pack,” she said. “We want to be the trailblazers as we move forward.”