Palm Beach County Housing Summit

Housing SummitPALM BEACH COUNTY AFFORDABLE HOUSING:

AFTER THE SUMMIT

By Sammy R. Alzofon

The Palm Beach County Housing Summit was convened by County Administrator Verdenia Baker on May 31, 2017, to a full house of more than 500 attendees. [It was reported to the League of Women Voters in a June 6, 2017 summary.] The long-awaited outcome of that Summit is now available in two documents:

  • An Invitation from the Palm Beach County 2017 Housing Summit Steering Committee
  • Palm Beach County 2017 Housing Summit Attainable Housing: Guiding Principles & Actions

The Steering Committee that planned the Summit has proposed establishing a regional framework for ongoing work, given the size of the county and its broad urban and demographic diversity. These regions are:

  • South Region: Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach
  • Central Region: Lantana, Lake Worth, West Palm Beach, Palm Springs, Greenacres, and a large unincorporated area including an ex-urban tier
  • West Region: Royal Palm Beach, Wellington, Loxahatchee, Belle Glade, Pahokee, South Bay, West Lake
  • North Region: Mangonia Park, Riviera Beach, Lake Park, Palm Beach Gardens, North Palm Beach, Juno Beach, Jupiter, Tequesta

The sub-area Steering Committees will also include a representative from the following organizations:

  • Economic Council
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • League of Cities
  • A not for profit
  • A Palm Beach County representative
  • Three representatives selected by the Steering Committee

The proposed guiding principles and action are outlined in a six-page document, ranging from shared investment and responsibility, preservation of existing stock, and reduced regulatory barriers to increased financial resources and strategic sustainable developments.

The principles and action are not abstract ideas. Many of the issues are already governing zoning and construction decisions. The Palm Beach Post reported on July 25 that the resolution of issues like favoring attainable housing over slower traffic movement has arisen in a Boynton Beach development in which the developer requested permission to reduce density from 643 condominium units to 324 with the developer’s attorney saying that the city commission should be focusing “on the fact that the altered project will put fewer cars on the road.” There was also a commission division on whether to require the builder to provide workforce housing, in which the Boynton Beach Vice Mayor and commission member said he didn’t see any need for inclusion of workforce, or affordable, housing and that he appreciated the lower density in the revised proposal.

And once again, the cost of housing is in the news with the July 25 report that home prices again reached a 10-year high with the median home price rising to $345,000, an increase of 8% over last year’s price. The county commission is also determined to hold the line on limiting development within the Agricultural Reserve, despite proposals for inclusion of affordable housing (Post on 7/26/2017 and 7/27/2017).

The stated goal for the sub-area groups is to “increase housing that is affordable, attainable and appropriate to maintain a sustainable community through an inclusive, collaborative effort.” Ideas and suggestions are being solicited and can be sent to Assistant County Administrator Faye W. Johnson at FJohnson@pbcgov.org, with a deadline of August 7, 2017. The next Steering Committee meeting is scheduled for August 18, 2017 at 9:00 am at the Community Land Trust of Palm Beach County, Davis Landings Apartment Complex at 4938 Davis Road in Lake Worth.

If there is any doubt regarding housing needs, it can be dispelled by the convening on July 25, 2017 of a forum on the county’s ten-year plan to end homelessness, which is now in its 9th year. This all-day event, sponsored by Palm Beach County’s Community Services Department, the Homeless and Housing Alliance, and the Homeless Advisory Board focused on the goals of the 10-year plan and the need to use cooperation and collective commitment.

Leading The Way Home: Using Collective Impact to End Homelessness in PBC

Palm Beach County Community Services Department, in co-operation with the Homeless and Housing Alliance (HHA) and the Homeless Advisory Board, issued an invitation to report progress on the county’s Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness and to ” . . . galvanize stakeholders around short-term goals to end chronic homelessness and veteran homelessness by the end of 2018.. . HHA’s plan to place homeless youth ages 18-24 in housing within 100 days, strategies to increase affordable housing units to assist our homeless population and prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless, and methods for building a more efficient homeless services system.”

The morning sessions focused on the annual point in time count of the homeless in Palm Beach County, as well as data-driven analysis and outcomes. In addition there were presentations on coordinated service entry points and collective impact. Regina Cannon, Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), spoke on “Insights on Collective Impact: Housing Need and Funding,” an excellent overview of the collective impact approach and what it is: A framework to tackle deeply entrenched and complex social problems.

According to Cannon, Palm Beach County had all the local preconditions for implementing collective impact: a sense of urgency has been created as well as an affordable housing structure with supportive services. The community impact, she says, will be seen in numbers: decrease in emergency room visits, decrease in emergency detox services, incarcerations reduced …

The ten-year plan can be found at www.TheHomelessPlan.org and item 6 of the seven goals set out is to …”secure a stable stock of affordable/accessible housing.” While the morning session focused on how the 10-year plan and its implementation have evolved and reached the point it is at, one of the afternoon break-out sessions, led by Sherry Howard, Deputy Director of the county’s Department of Housing and Economic Sustainability, focused on the financing opportunities available in the public and private sector for affordable housing development. Susan Pourciau, of the Florida Housing Coalition, presented the nature and structure of funds available in the State of Florida, while David Brandt, Housing Finance Authority (HFA) of Palm Beach County discussed HFA funding and the strategies for obtaining and bundling construction funding from various sources.

Wendy Tippett, PBC Human and Veterans Services, offered two compelling statements:

  • There must be real jobs with a living wage.
  • Every human being deserves a home