Manatee County looks to encourage affordable rental housing
An affordable housing complex along State Road 70 earned its first green light in the Manatee County approval process Thursday.
Planning Commissioners voted unanimously to recommend that the Board of County Commissioners approve the Oaks at Creekside project, which would bring 96 affordable units to the 3500 block of S.R. 70.
While Manatee County staff can only enforce the developer to keep at least 25 percent of the units affordable, the project uses tax credits from the state, therefore ensuring that the owner will keep their 100 percent promise.
“They will be in a relationship with us for a very long time,” said Denise Thomas, a housing and community development coordinator, who explained the constraints of the developer’s land use agreement.
Dilia Tabora, the project’s development manager, said her company has built a national reputation for affordable housing developments across the nation. It’s not the Housing Trust Group’s first Bradenton project, either.
The company’s Addison 85 percent affordable housing apartment complex at 702 Sixth Avenue East is set to open this summer, according to their website.
“It’s a great, great thing the state does for us,” Tabora said of Florida’s affordable housing tax credits. “It’s something very valuable for the area.”
Oaks at Creekside will be a multi-family development, consisting of four three-story buildings, each with 24 units. There will be a selection of designs, including one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans, and there are plans to include amenities such as a 4,300-square-foot clubhouse, a pool, a dog park and gazebos.
Neighboring residents, however, spoke against the proposal, fearing the development would decrease their property values, carry noise into their neighborhood and increase the potential for crime in the area.
“This is a threat to us. It is an invasion of our privacy and we’re very concerned about that,” said April Dacas, who lives along the project’s northern boundary line. “We’re concerned about a lot of things. Affordable housing sounds a lot like Section 8 housing.”
Affordable housing residents, Tabora explained, are working citizens who need a place to stay just like anyone else. She noted that while Section 8 allows some to live in those homes without earning an income, affordable housing requires a job.
“There’s squatters living (on the property) now and, in my opinion, they’re a lot more dangerous than the people that are going to be living here,” she said. “It’s people who are teachers, assistants, young police officers. The people there are no different than me.”
Planning Commissioner Paul Rutledge also spoke passionately against the use of stereotypes being used to deter an affordable housing project.
“Some of these things being said about tax credit housing, affordable housing, Section 8 and the things Manatee is trying to do, they don’t affect property value negatively, they spark things. I think this is the right kind of use,” Rutledge said. “It doesn’t degrade the value, it integrates the community.”
“The statement about crime, I think a lot of the times is a word used to keep out people who are not exactly like us. I think we say things cavalierly and tax credit housing for people making less money does not imply crime. We have to make a home for them, too, because they’re a part of our community,” he added.
Following the vote, planners met with the concerned residents to alleviate their concerns about the project. All of them left the conversation feeling better than they did before.
“A little communication goes a long way,” Dacas said after meeting with the development team.
The Board of County Commissioners is scheduled to vote on the Oaks at Creekside project at a May 2 meeting, according to county staff. If approved, Tabora said the housing project should be open by December 2020.