Housing rule pits city vs. builders


Published: Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 11:56 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE - Home builders sued the city Tuesday to strike down a policy requiring them to include affordable housing in their developments because it would drive up overall housing costs, a representative said.
The Florida Home Builders Association sued in Leon County's Second Judicial Circuit Court to stop the city's inclusionary housing ordinance from continuing.
The city commission enacted the law in October to increase affordable housing for its workers.
Under the law, builders must sell 10 percent of developments with 50 or more homes at a discount price, using a sliding scale that's based on what the buyer can afford, but for no less than about $160,000, and no more than close to $360,000.
Builders claim the measure raises costs by forcing buyers who pay full price for homes to subsidize affordable housing units.
"Somebody's gotta pay for that cost, otherwise I can't afford to go to work every day. If I can't afford to go to work, there's no housing," said Tallahassee remodeler Ed Dion.
So far, only Tallahassee has adopted the measure, but at least three counties and two other cities in Florida are considering similar policies, said Edie Ousley, the association's spokeswoman.
City Attorney Jim English said the group's allegations were unfounded.
"It was really ironic to me that, in this time period, where builders and developers and real estate agents have enjoyed unprecedented sales and unprecedented revenues and profits, that they would be challenging this really simple opportunity to provide workforce housing," English said.
Moreover, the law provides trade-offs for affordable housing builders, said Wayne Tedder, who directs the joint Tallahassee-Leon County planning department. For example, builders get permits to build extra full-priced units on a property, or gain exemptions from roadway improvement rules on new developments.
One affordable housing advocate said the association is reacting prematurely and should wait to see the effects of the law.
"I believe they're having a knee jerk reaction to inclusionary housing as it's been implemented in other parts of the nation," said Jamie Ross, spokeswoman for 1000 Friends of Florida, which is a non-profit group running affordable housing programs. "I think they've heard horror stories from other areas that are not based in fact."
Ross said more than 200 cities in the U.S. have inclusionary housing laws.

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