Pasco wants affordable housing reforms that fit the county’s unique needs

Pasco County leaders have made clear their belief that a new law that allows developers to convert land zoned for commercial or industrial use into affordable housing undermines their ability to create jobs.

They also argue that they were harmed by the requirement that Pascoe receive most of the money From the state’s main affordable housing program, it will be spent to help people looking to buy homes. They say relief for renters is a much greater need.

Pasco County officials decided to take these concerns to their local state legislators to seek changes to laws that leave the county further behind in housing, job balance and ability to meet local needs. They plan to demand more flexibility.

County commissioners have complained several times now about the direct impact of the local law, which was approved in the last legislative session Commercial land is allowed to be converted into housing. It relieves the county from making decisions about where such uses are appropriate and compatible and what developers need to do to make their project suitable for the community.

The law also grants a tax exemption to the project depending on the level of affordability.

During a legislative strategy session last month, Pasco Commission Chairman Jack Mariano said the Live Local program would undo 20 years of county efforts to attract construction that puts people to work, so it’s not just known as a “bedroom community.” But he also said the tax breaks that come with it are “crazy.”

Several years ago, the county sought help from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council to allocate land that could lead to job creation. The report that came back showed that Pasco is still jobs poor and housing rich.

Pasco needs to be a “balanced community” with a diverse tax base, said David Engel, Pasco’s director of economic growth. “Live Local is too intrusive into local land use policy as well as fiscal policy.”

The balance is important because “housing consumes more county services than it contributes in taxes. The balancing act is on the industrial side,” he said. “We need that.”

Engel suggested that Pasco County ask its legislative delegation Introducing a jobs-to-housing ratio would relieve counties experiencing job poverty.

Commissioner Katherine Starkey said she was happy to see Dominium Development recently use the regular rezoning process to gain approval to build an affordable housing complex in Holiday. She said she thinks it would be good if the state provided more money for this type of project, which does not seek tax breaks or land use needed to create new jobs.

Another change is needed in the way the state distributes money for affordable housing through the State Housing Initiatives Partnership, said Marcy Esberg, Pasco Community Development Director.

In Pasco, the ratio of homeowners to renters is higher than in other counties. Pasco needs more funding to help renters, but rules require 65% of the money it received through the program to pay for homeownership costs. The district expects to receive $77 million this year. With median home prices in Pasco now topping $400,000, the money won’t go that far and “makes it very difficult for us to spend money this way,” she said.

County officials are proposing a law change that would allow counties to make their own decisions on spending priorities based on three-year housing plans, which reflect what the local community needs.

Mariano said he liked the idea of ​​pushing for more homeownership, but Esberg said that in Pasco, spending $125,000 to $200,000 on building a rental unit “will help many, many families” more than a down payment on a home.

The commissioners will submit their annual list of requests to the legislative delegation early next month, and other government agencies, private organizations and individuals can also address the delegation by registering in advance.

The Pasco Legislative Delegation will hear community input at noon on Oct. 2 at the Performing Arts Center at Pasco Hernando State College West Pasco, 10230 Ridge Road, New Port Richey.

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