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City considers changes to ‘form codes’ to boost affordable housing

Bradenton Planning and Community Development Director Catherine Hartley lays out her proposal to potentially eliminate form base codes in some areas of the city to create more opportunity for affordable housing to replace slum and blight.
Bradenton Planning and Community Development Director Catherine Hartley lays out her proposal to potentially eliminate form base codes in some areas of the city to create more opportunity for affordable housing to replace slum and blight. myoung@bradenton.com

The 222 pages of form base codes are designed to keep the natural character of neighborhoods in Bradenton in place by controlling the types of architectural uses a developer can design for new homes. While that has benefited areas like the Historic Ware’s Creek neighborhood, it has become a hindrance for other areas of the city.

Planning and Community Development Director Catherine Hartley said it’s time for a change if the city wants to enhance affordable housing opportunities in older neighborhoods while achieving the Community Redevelopment Agency’s goals of removing slum and blight.

Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo has never been a fan of the codes because “it prohibits building and especially if we are pushing development of homes.” Gallo said the codes force developers to pay more for construction to meet the codes, which is pushing up the price of homes that would otherwise be affordable.

Most officials agree that the codes make sense in certain areas but when they were implemented five years ago, the boundaries where form base codes were applicable were stretched too far, particularly in East Bradenton’s older neighborhoods.

Ward 5 Councilman Harold Byrd Jr. said he understands why it was initially done in his district, but said it is preventing affordable housing opportunities and the redevelopment of slum and blight.

“Form base code is at the point where if something doesn’t work and we knew someone wants to go in for affordable housing, it can prevent that,” he said.

Gallo said it didn’t make sense to force a developer to build in the style of neighborhoods that have slum and blight. Hartley said that’s why she will bring recommendations to the council later this summer to remove certain areas of the city from the restriction of the codes.

“But that depends on your policy direction on what areas you want to see change or stay the same,” she said. “If it makes sense to take them out of the codes and there are areas that I think they do, then I can bring that to you this summer.”

City administrator Carl Callahan said, “We’ve got a few of experience with the codes now and sometimes it’s been a case of better and worse. Catherine is focusing her staff on attention to detail.”

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