County Commission takes steps to lower impact and mobility fees for affordable housing units

Staff directed to draft appropriate amendments to County Code

Having implemented a number of strategies over the past few years to encourage the construction of affordable housing, the Sarasota County Commission has directed staff to move forward with more measures.

The latest focus is on reductions in impact and mobility fees, with the percentage of decrease pegged to the income levels to which the developments would be marketed.

During an Oct. 11 presentation to the commissioners, Matt Osterhoudt, director of the county’s Planning and Development Services Department, reminded them that Section 163.31801 of the Florida Statutes says, “A county, municipality, or special district may provide an exception or waiver for an impact fee for the development or construction of housing that is affordable, as defined in [Section] 420.9071 [of the statutes]. If a county, municipality, or special district provides such an exception or waiver, it is not required to use any revenues to offset the impact.”

The latter portion of state law explains, “ ‘Affordable’ means that monthly rents or monthly mortgage payments including taxes and insurance do not exceed 30 percent of that amount which represents the percentage of the median annual gross income for the households as indicated in subsection (20), subsection (21), or subsection (30). However, it is not the intent to limit an individual household’s ability to devote more than 30 percent of its income for housing, and housing for which a household devotes more than 30 percent of its income shall be deemed affordable if the first institutional mortgage lender is satisfied that the household can afford mortgage payments in excess of the 30 percent benchmark. The term also includes housing provided by a not-for-profit corporation that derives at least 75 percent of its annual revenues from contracts or services provided to a state or federal agency for low-income persons and low-income households; that provides supportive housing for persons who suffer from mental health issues, substance abuse, or domestic violence; and that provides on-premises social and community support services relating to job training, life skills training, alcohol and substance abuse disorders, child care, and client case management.”

In the aftermath of a May 24 discussion, the commissioners told staff to proceed with work on exceptions for 100% of the mobility, library and park impact fees for multi-family residential projects that will have units priced at 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI), or below, for the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), as determined each year by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

This year, the median income for the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton MSA is $90,400.

The exceptions would apply to developments constructed by both for-profit and nonprofit entities, Osterhoudt noted.

Further, he continued, the commissioners in late May agreed to a tiered impact fee reduction system for dwellings priced from 80% to 120% of AMI, with the potential that those fees could be reduced as much as 50%.

When Osterhoudt sought assurance that that was indeed the direction the board still wished staff to take, Chair Alan Maio responded that he saw none of his colleagues wishing to make comments.

Then Osterhoudt provided more details about the park and library impact fees, as follows:

  • Developers of multi-family units offered at 60% AMI or below will pay 0% impact fees.
  • Developers of multi-family offered above 60% and up to 80% AMI will pay 50% of the impact fees.
  • Developers of multi-family housing offered above 80% and up to 120% AMI will pay 75% of the impact fees.
  • Developers of multi-family residences offered above 120% AMI will pay 100% of the impact fees.

Again, after checking with the other commissioners, Maio told Osterhoudt, “Another concurrence with what the slide says.”

Next, Osterhoudt provided the board members a slide regarding mobility fees. Based on earlier commission guidance, staff recommends the following, Osterhoudt said:

  • A developer of affordable, attainable or workforce residential housing offered at 60% AMI or below would pay no impact fees.
  • Based upon an analysis in a county mobility fee technical report — consistent with the mobility fee update that the commissioners adopted recently — a developer of affordable, attainable or workforce residential housing offered above 60% AMI and up to 80% AMI will pay 50% of the impact fees.

Maio responded, “We have to make absolutely sure … no one uses the word ‘market rate,’ ” because the goal is to create more affordable, attainable and workforce housing.

With no commissioner proposing modifications of the recommendations, Osterhoudt said that staff would draft amendments to Chapter 70 of the County Code, which contains the regulations on impact and capacity fees, along with drafting amendments to any other relevant documents.

Following that work, Osterhoudt continued, staff would schedule an appearance before the commission to seek authorization to advertise a public hearing on the amendments, and then, provided that authorization was granted, staff would schedule and advertise the public hearing.

At that point, Commissioner Nancy Detert said, “I’d just like to emphasize [that the size of a dwelling unit]” does not make it affordable or attainable.

Detert recently voiced objections to a Venice project that the board members approved in July, which involves 750-square-foot units. The board members’ goal several years ago in approving “half unit” housing options was to spur the creation of more affordable housing. However, the dwellings in Venice were to be rented in a range of $1,900 to $2,300.

“I have no interest in waiving fees for people to build what I don’t want,” she said on Oct. 11.

Osterhoudt assured her that the draft amendments would have the language she has stressed to avoid such a possibility.

“I look forward to seeing that,” Detert responded.

Reports and discussion prior to Oct. 11

A county staff memo provided in the Oct. 11 board packet reminded the commissioners that, on May 24, they asked staff for information regarding permitting costs associated with new development, “to get a better idea” of the results of imposing reduced impact and mobility fees. As a result, staff created tables showing the estimated expenses for two sizes of multi-family units.

The memo did note, “The total cost [of] a multi-family residential permit will factor in the entirety of the building, not just the individual dwelling, including the square foot of each unit, how many units are within the building, location within the County, and a stated or calculated construction value.”

Then the memo explained that, for those examples, staff factored in the exact same conditions except for the size of the units. Staff used 1,300 square feet and the half-dwelling size of 750 square feet, the memo noted.

The fees in the resulting tables were calculated for a single unit, comprising building permit review fees, utilities fees and utility hook-up costs, as well as all impact fees, the memo said.

“Some additional inspection fees have been left out,” the memo added, because of “their comparatively low amounts and their variance in cost.”

The charts, which were included in the agenda packet, showed the following for a 1,300-square-foot dwelling in a multi-family development in an urban “infill” setting:

  • For a unit priced above 120% AMI, the total of all of the fees would be $13,009.34.
  • For a unit priced higher than 80% of AMI but below 120% AMI, the total would be $12,145.
  • For a unit priced higher than 60% AMI but less than 80% AMI, $11,281.46.
  • For a unit priced less than 60% AMI, $9,553.58.

For a 750-square-foot unit in multi-family housing infill project, the following fees were shown:

  • For a unit priced above 120% AMI, the total would be $11,504.90.
  • For a unit priced higher than 80% AMI but lower than 120% AMI, the total would be $10,844.19.
  • For a unit priced higher than 60% AMI but lower than 80% AMI, the total would be $10,183.48.
  • For a unit priced lower than 60% AMI, the total would be $8,862.06.

Higher figures are shown in both examples for multi-family residential housing built east of Interstate 75.

For a 1,300-square-foot unit, the total fees would range from $13,794.54, if it is priced above 120% AMI, to $9,553.58, if it is priced below 60% AMI.

The range for a 750-square-foot unit built east of I-75 goes from $11,957.90, if it is priced above 120% AMI, to $8,862.06, if it is priced below 60% AMI.

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