Young Leaders of Broward County Host Important Conversation with Major Developers
ULI’s Southeast Florida/Caribbean chapter and its Young Leaders of Broward County hosted a critical conversation about the need to address the glaring need for affordable housing opportunities throughout South Florida and beyond on Nov. 29 at the ULI office in Fort Lauderdale.
Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Jenni Morejon led the spirited discussion as panel moderator and also provided insights on what proposed solutions are being brought forward in the face of scarce land availability, tight budgets and dwindling funding sources. Young Leaders of Broward co-chairs Verity Mosquera of Colliers International and Jeremy Shir of Becker & Poliakoff kicked off the proceedings with opening comments about ULI and its South Florida initiatives and activities.
Morejon, Related Group Director of Acquisitions Brett Green and Green Mills Developers Principal & Co-Founder Mitch Rosenstein opened the discussion with an explanation of key terms in the affordable housing world and an overview of the kinds of affordable, workforce and attainable housing projects developers like Green and Rosenstein build in Broward County and beyond. They noted that Broward’s population is expected to grow by 15 percent over the next 20 years, a projection that underscores the need for various forms of affordable housing. While housing costs have surged by 115 percent since 2000, the housing stock has only increased by 12 percent during that span.
“Money only goes so far,” Green said. “We need to change the thought process on how projects are built. Local governments must incentivize developers to [incorporate] affordable and workforce units into their projects.”
Rosenstein cited the existing perception of what affordable housing is, is a pivotal challenge to overcome. The longstanding “not in my backyard” mentality also continues to be a major issue.
“A lot of people think of affordable housing as older stock and buildings in decay, but that is not the case,” he said, adding that modern projects that include affordable, workforce and attainable housing are heavily amenitized, managed and mirror the design quality of high-end residential projects. “We have to view affordable housing and workforce housing as a form of infrastructure because the free market alone can’t [solve] the problem.”
The panelists agreed that subsidies do not have to be the only solution for the housing crisis. More clarity in the tax credit procurement process, expedited permitting, tax abatements and zoning that allows developers to build less parking to create additional density would all make affordable, workforce and attainable housing easier to create.
Audience members noted that state funds required under the Sadowski Act, which was adopted by the Florida Legislature in 1992 to create a dedicated revenue source to fund Florida’s affordable housing programs, are not being properly used. The Sadowski Housing Coalition, a nonpartisan collection of more than 30 statewide organizations, is advocating to ensure Sadowski funds are allocated strictly for programs that provide housing to those that need it most.
Faxing is the preferred way to contact Florida’s U.S. senators and advocate for affordable housing initiatives. Sen. Marco Rubio can be reached by telephone at (407) 254-2573 or by fax at (407) 423-0941. Sen. Bill Nelson can be reached by telephone at (202) 224-5274 or by fax at (202) 228-2183.
Advocating to elected officials in local jurisdictions is also extremely important.