MANATEE -- Wearing "I am the Manatee Millennial Movement" buttons, Manatee County's "millennial team" shared where they live with the county commission at its Tuesday meeting.
Renting apartments and homes, owning homes, living outside Manatee County and living with their parents were where county employees who comprise the 36-person millennial team call home.
During the presentation, they said there is a lack of workforce housing in Manatee County.
"We are not looking for a handout at all," said Simone Peterson, a member of the team and a county government neighborhood services specialist. "If I make $30,000, I want to live in a safe, affordable place."
After talking with different players in the community, including builders and developers, workforce housing, place-making (or walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods) and infrastructure were the top three concerns identified by the group, she said.
County department directors, Manatee Habitat Young Professionals group, the Council of Governments, Manatee Young Professionals, Florida Planning and Zoning Association and the college
community were among the groups from which the millennial team gathered feedback. The team also hosted the #iSeeManatee event April 17, but feedback gathered then is not yet available.
In 2013, 41 percent of Manatee County households paid more than 30 percent of their income for housing.
"Everybody said housing in Manatee County is too high and the income is too low," said Anisley Mena of the county Neighborhood Services Department. "That was repeated over and over. This is not just a problem for millennials. Baby boomers and millennials seem to be wanting the same thing. They want active lifestyle. They want mixed use. ...They are struggling just be able to keep a roof over their heads. This isn't just a millennial problem. It's all of our problem."
The millennial team presented possible solutions, including changing land-development regulations to allow greater intensity, density and flexibility; providing faster review periods for redevelopment and infill consideration of county-owned buildings and public property for developers; and consideration of fee payments at a later phase of a project.
Commissioner Charles Smith commended the millennials on the presentation in agreeing lack of affordable housing is an issue.
"My concern is are we going to implement this and who is going to implement the need for affordable housing?" Smith asked.
Commissioner Robin DiSabatino said it is "great to see young folks so engaged in our community and county government."
"There's a lot of need and interest," DiSabatino said. "I think we as the county need to be a lot more flexible. It takes a long time (for unique projects) to get through the process. That's a big obstacle because time is money. We need to be flexible with these new ideas."
Through her experience helping senior citizens try to find affordable housing, DiSabatino said the county needs more apartment-type living.
"If it is affordable, it's not livable," she said. "It's frightening sometimes to see what the inventory is out there and what rent they are getting. ... The prices are high and the income is low. I encourage you to continue on this and you are the future and push the discussion forward."
Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac said millennials "are talking about a very big change for this community, but we are with you. It's going to take a little bit of time. Don't give up."
Commissioner John Chappie encouraged the millennials to continue to grow the community and not take "no" as an answer.
"It's your generation," he said.
"It's your time to have impact on community. It's what you guys want. You guys want to become part of the community. You want to have your mark on the community."
Commissioner Carol Whitmore encouraged the millennials to continue speaking about the issue, particularly as the county rewrites its Land Development Code.
"You are starting a movement that we haven't seen," she said.
"Change is hard, but nobody wants sprawling homes anymore. Now is the time."
Commissioner Larry Bustle echoed Whitmore: The millennial dialogue should continue.
"You've got the flame going," he said. "Now it is up to you and working with us to keep the flame going."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.