Affordable Housing: Enough with the Hot Air!

August 21, 2006 0 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The 28 acre Central Park Village projects will be demolished and replaced with a 4,600 unit development providing housing for all incomes, rich and poor. Can this be part of the solution for quality affordable housing in Jacksonville?

According to a recent University of Florida study, the average Jacksonville  household makes $47,438 annually and with that household income a family can afford a $159,934  house. However, Northeast Florida’s average existing home price is  $213,500.
 To make matters worse, 61% of those average households earn less than $47,000  per year. On average they earn $31,000, meaning most local families can only  afford a $106,615 home, less than half of what the local average house cost is.  These numbers flat out tell us that our local housing market is being driven by  non-local demand, with local residents ending up being squeezed out of the  market.
 In response, the city has set up….you named it…..a task force to help identify  and design infill housing. Well here’s a word of advice. Use wasted city-owned  land in core areas like LaVilla, Downtown, Brooklyn, and East Jax as carrots to  attract outside companies specializing in affordable and market rate  development, since we can’t seem to get it right locally.
 Take notes from Tampa
 Central Park Village will fill the gap between downtown Tampa and Ybor city with  shops, sidewalk cafes, parks, and townhomes similar to what one would expect to  find in NYC or Paris.
 For years, Brooklyn has been touted as Jacksonville’s answer for affordable and  workforce housing in the core. During a press conference announcing a deal to  bring 1,750 residential units on 12.5 acres to Brooklyn, Mayor Peyton announced  they would have starting prices as high as $290,000 to accommodate  workforce-housing needs. Workforce-housing for who? It is obviously not for the residents of Jacksonville.
 Maybe it is time for leaders and task force members to ask the city of Tampa for  advise? Like Brooklyn, the neighborhood of Central Park sits just outside of  its downtown and has struggled with crime, decay, and urban renewal over  years… until now.
 Along with the private sector, the Tampa Housing Authority recently struck a  deal to demolish the aging Central Park Village projects and replace them with  an ambitious mixed-use infill project featuring 4,600 homes for people of ALL  incomes, not just yuppies.
 In addition, to help grow funds for additional affordable housing developments,  the project also calls for a  transfer fee that would be imposed every time  an owner sells a unit. Its expected that this fee could generate as much as $5  million a year, half going to construct additional affordable housing projects  and the other half to fund local social service programs, job training, and  neighborhood upgrades.
 Mixing the poor and rich. Will it Work?
 First Ward Place, was developed by Bank of America CDC. This company started  building affordable housing developments in blighted areas  during the  1970's. Today, it has funded over 15 similar type developments in cities such as  Atlanta, Dallas, Charlotte, and now Tampa.
 Before some say it can’t be done, first look elsewhere to find successful  examples.    

Eight years ago, the Bank of America Community Development Corp embarked  on First Ward place, a similar undertaking in Uptown Charlotte. Charlotte has one of the  South’s fastest growing central business districts.
 Despite being a very risky venture at the time, the answer to the question of  whether people would want  to buy expensive homes next to a community where more than half of the units are  government subsidized came quickly. The development sold out before  construction started.
 Today, crime has been significantly reduced, a new school has been constructed  and about one dozen condo towers, along with a sports arena and children’s  museum are now under construction nearby. As a result, First Ward Place received  an Award of Excellence by the Urban Land Institute.
 What does this have to do with Jacksonville?
 The task force needs help finding land for real “market rate” housing? Look no  further than the community formerly known as LaVilla. All the green colored  properties are owned by the city of Jacksonville.
 Obviously, we are a city who likes to study and hire consultants with the best  of them, only to put the master plans on the shelf for years, then repeat the  vicious cycle by hiring new consultants to update the plans. This means one of  two things. Either we don’t know what we’re doing or officials are afraid to  take the leap called implementation. Well, Metro Jacksonville has a simple  answer that won’t cost you a dime in consulting fees. Pick up the phone and  call Bank of America CDC and other out-of-town affordable housing developers,  since they obviously know what they are doing. Remember that community once  known as LaVilla? We have plenty of available and cleared city-owned land, ready  to accommodate bricks and mortar. No need for a new revised master plan. Issue  an RFP, invite the experienced professionals, let their design teams do the  magic, and use the DRC to make sure it meshes with the current downtown master  plan. Then take that money ready to be stuck in the consultant’s G-strings and  Light Up Laura Street.
 For more information:
 Central Park Tampa


Bank of America Community Development Corporation


Bank of America CDC Video


Workforce Housing: Using Design as a Creative Solution
 Lighting Laura Street