Sarasota hoping for more affordable housing

ABC7 News at 6pm
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 9:40 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The Sarasota City Commission discussed a plan Monday that would create a new zoning classification providing incentives for developers to increase the amount of affordable housing within the city limits.

Realtor Dan Heschmeyer is working with a refugee program to help a family of Ukranians find a home in Sarasota. The husband and wife are highly educated, bilingual, and are leaving behind prestigious careers as a result of the war.

However, since they have no credit or prospects for jobs in America, finding a place has been almost impossible. Even with Heschmeyer’s 33 years of experience as a realtor, combined with the financial assistance from the refugee program, it’s been over a month with no luck.

“It’s really hard for people to find a place. Especially people who are borderline or don’t have very good income because the rental managers are able to make things really restrictive because there’s so many people looking they’ve got a pretty good choice of who to choose from now,” said Heschmeyer.

Commissioner Hagen Brody was one of the four commissioners who voted for the housing initiative. He explained it’s not the city who will decide the price of the homes- rather, the developer.

The city will provide incentives, such as allowing more densely populated properties, in exchange for the owners to make a portion of those homes affordable.

“If a developer wants those extra units then they must include a percentage of below market units. I would imagine that would be somewhere around the 15% mark,” Brody said.

He adds, the initiative has a dual purpose.

“The purpose is to not just address the lack of affordable housing options for working and middle-class folks in our community. But also, reinvigorate some of our dilapidated corridors and make sure we have a vibrant and inclusive future for this community,” he said.

Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch was the only dissenting vote among the commissioners. She said she didn’t feel it was right to move forward without more community input.

“The community weighed-in loud and clear and said we didn’t get to participate in this,” said Ahearn-Koch. “Neighborhood after neighborhood said, ‘we would like time to look at it and see, how does this impact our neighborhood? How can we make this a better plan?’”

But for people like the Ukranian family trying to find refuge in Sarasota, the relief can’t come soon enough.

“I really don’t know what the answer is,” said Heschmeyer. “Even if somebody said, ‘yeah let’s make a big push to [provide more affordable housing]!’ It would be a year or two before anything got out of the ground.”

The Sarasota City Commission is set to meet several more times to iron out the details.