Reductions in mobility impact fees proposed for affordable housing in Sarasota County

Public hearing tentatively set for April 24 on changes for specific types of homes

Tiny houses on wheels are on display during the 2017 Build Small Live Large event in Portland, Oregon. Photo by Dan David Cook via Wikimedia Commons

On April 24, the Sarasota County Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on proposed reductions in the county’s mobility impact fees to foster the development of affordable housing.

The board members unanimously authorized the hearing when they voted on their March 13 Consent Agenda of routine business items.

The new fees would apply to housing restricted to independent living developments for residents 55 and older; multi-family dwelling units smaller than 750 square feet; micro-apartments of less than 500 square feet in situations when a maximum of one parking space per two units in a location close to transit service; tiny homes on wheels that are smaller than 200 square feet and meet certain specifications; and permanent tiny homes that have less than 500 square feet.

A travel trailer would not be considered a tiny home on wheels, the proposed amendment notes.

Impact fees are imposed by local government bodies in an effort to make sure builders help pay for infrastructure — such as parks and roads — that the residents or customers of their new construction will use.

Further, if communities for people 55 and older are to qualify, they cannot have common dining and on-site health facilities that are not open to the public, the proposed amendment points out.

The mobility impact fee for a permanent tiny home would be $2,338. For a regular multi-family dwelling, the mobility impact fee is $3,116; for a multi-family dwelling smaller than 750 square feet, the fee would be $2,076, according to the proposed amendment.

A chart shows the proposed changes to the mobility impact fee schedule. Image courtesy Sarasota County

“With respect to the recommended multi-family rate,” the staff memo explains, “an important basis for the size of 750 [square feet] or less is the standard correlation of one bedroom with this size category.” An additional bedroom, the memo adds, would necessitate an increase in the size of the unit and, thus, the associated capacity impacts.

Greater reductions are offered for the affordable housing units specified in the proposed amendment if they are part of a mixed-use development. The fees would be reduced even further if there were applied to such dwellings in urban infill projects.

As a March 13 staff memo explains, “Florida Statute 163.3180 5(f) 6 encourages local governments to consider lower impact fees for developments that are in urban areas, or are mixed-use or provide affordable and workforce housing.” Although the county’s mobility fee ordinance, adopted in the fall of 2015, recognizes that such fees are consistent with the county’s Comprehensive Plan — which guides development — the fee schedule “does not contain specific provisions or rates for housing types more often viewed as affordable house,” the memo points out.

Utilizing data from America Community Service (ACS) and the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS), as well as from the Institute of Traffic Engineers, the memo continues, a county document titled Technical Report for Proposed Amendment to Add Affordable Housing Land Uses provides the necessary technical basis for the recommended new fees. That document is dated Jan. 3, according to the proposed resolution that would implement the new fees.

Factors such as the need for fewer parking spaces in association with affordable housing; proximity to bicycle, pedestrian and transit routes; and the correlation between household size and number of vehicles available “were involved in the calculation of the rates,” the memo adds.

The commissioners have been pressing staff since last year to be creative in proposing steps that can be taken quickly to entice developers to put more focus on affordable housing stock. On Jan. 17, they approved new parking regulations also proposed by staff to encourage such developments.