One community-wide imperative issue has defied a viable solution. Affordable housing.
We can also call it attainable housing, as has been rightfully stated. Unaffordable housing is unattainable.
This summer, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Manatee County stood at $950 a month. Two bedrooms? $1,520. Those figures are up from last year. Is that affordable on a minimum wage salary?
That is nothing less than a joke.
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Turning Points, a treasure to the community, is Manatee County’s primary and premier center for the delivery of services to the homeless, at the Bill Galvano One Stop Center.
The service offers rent and utility assistance. Case managers oversee this. No blank checks here.
But if you meet eligibility requirements and the ability to meet funding guidelines, you may qualify for financial assistance of up to $1,000 for rent, deposits, and/or utilities.
That would cover a one-bedroom apartment at today’s lease rates. Got a family?
Many of the best minds in this community have come up with ideas, good ideas — such as expanding affordable health care to the working poor so they are not evicted from minimal existence homes because of health bills.
But there is one question without a genie-bottle answer that would solve Bradenton and Manatee County’s never-ending challenge with our homeless.
That begins and ends with one answer: affordable housing. Not substandard residences. Decent, safe places to raise children. And walk the neighborhood without a handgun in your waistband.
Manatee County has been at the center of this tough, years-long challenge to government policy: How to promote accessible housing. There is no question that a political power cannot demand private enterprise build affordable housing — at truly affordable rates, not the current market conditions that make the cheapest homes out of reach of the poor.
Government can create a friendly atmosphere that creates a friendly atmosphere for less expensive housing, with favorable land development codes and comprehensive plan ordinances that don’t handcuff infill and other development.
And that is what’s happening with the current rewrite of county rules on development.
In one of the latest, coming this week, is the county Affordable Housing Advisory Committee’s presentation to county commissioners, in which the board recommended what has been on the minds of everyone in the know on this issue: ease density and elevation restrictions that totally hobble the development of affordable housing.
The idea that high vertical structures such as apartment buildings will be the ruination of neighborhoods — when they could very well be the savior, infusing new life and vigor — should be a thoughtful point of debate as Manatee County moves forward with new policies.
The county can no longer encourage suburban sprawl with low-rise policies that force taxpayers to eventually invest in future expensive services, from law enforcement to public safety.
Vertical development is happening across the nation as cities and communities realize they cannot afford to be suburban-oriented places. Manatee County has finally embraced that inevitable reality.