Feb 6, 2024 - News

Decades-old Hillsborough housing program's fate on the line

Illustration of a repeating pattern of houses made out of hundred dollar bills.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Hillsborough's GOP-led commission will vote Wednesday on an ordinance to axe a long-standing affordable housing program.

Why it matters: Commissioners are poised to up the cost of building affordable houses while residents grapple with rising rental prices, high demand and limited supply.

  • The vote lands months after the commission diverted millions of dollars from its affordable housing trust fund toward road paving and sidewalk repairs.

Flashback: Republican Commissioner Michael Owen asked the County Attorney's Office to draft an ordinance ending the Affordable Housing Relief Program in December.

  • The program, created in 1992, aims to encourage affordable housing development by reducing the financial burden on developers.

Context: Hillsborough County levies impact fees on developers to offset the costs of public services needed to accommodate new residents.

  • Under the program, the county covers these charges for some developers of affordable housing projects.

The big picture: Elizabeth Strom, an urban planning professor at the University of South Florida, tells Axios that the move will make it harder to build homes for working-class families.

  • "The people in Hillsborough County want to think that their elected officials have their back as they struggle to afford housing. And right now, it looks like that's not the case," she says.

Yes, and: Brett Green, president of Archway Partners, says if the commission ends the program, there will be "fewer affordable housing projects in Hillsborough County."

  • Archway Partners is building Casa Bel Mar — a 100-unit affordable housing complex in South Tampa.
  • Green tells Axios the complex benefited from the program. "Similar projects may not move forward because [developers] don't have enough resources."

The other side: GOP Commissioner Joshua Wostal, who supports the move, tells Axios that the relief program is "subsidizing developers to build homes" using property tax dollars from residents who live "paycheck to paycheck."

  • Owen did not respond to Axios' request for comment but said in December that developers must start "paying their fair share to the county."

Reality check: Hillsborough County collected over $116 million in impact fees from developers in 2022, according to the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

  • Meanwhile, the county spent about $513,000, or 0.007% of its budget, on the affordable housing program in 2022.

Of note: The commission meets at 9am Wednesday. You can watch the meeting live here.

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