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Pinellas commissioners approve countywide housing compact

Mark Parker

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County Administrator Barry Burton explains the new Advantage Pinellas Housing Compact to county commissioners during Tuesday's meeting. Screengrab.

Forward Pinellas and the county’s four largest municipalities have entered into a new countywide compact to collaborate on long-term affordable housing solutions.

During Tuesday’s board meeting, county commissioners unanimously approved the Advantage Pinellas Housing Compact. The compact creates a partnership between Pinellas County, Forward Pinellas, and the cities of Largo, Pinellas Park, Clearwater and St. Petersburg to increase construction of affordable housing over the next several years.

The partnership creates a coalition of municipalities, community organizations, developers and local leaders committed to addressing affordable housing solutions. The compact outlines a coordinated approach with a common set of policies to increase housing linked to transportation, jobs and schools.

“What this does is it brings everybody together,” said County Administrator Barry Burton. “Where they’re working collaboratively on strategies to address all of the different housing types.”

With soaring rental prices leading to displacement, and residents demanding action from local officials, the compact hopes to speed up construction of affordable housing using a combination of local, state and federal funds. It will also offer incentives for developers and build upon previous initiatives, such as the Penny for Pinellas Affordable Housing Program.

Commissioner Pat Gerard said streamlining the myriad of initiatives and processes is a great tool for the affordable housing marketplace but said it would take a lot of time and energy to accomplish. She also said that Commissioner Rene Flowers presented interesting ideas at a recent housing conference, to make it easier for developers to navigate programs without encountering varying regulations in the county’s municipalities.

“Believe me, we hear about that all the time,” said Gerard. “So, I think this could be really helpful, and I hope we can do it quickly.”

Burton said having a regulatory tool and shared messaging would help residents identify available units and assist in the application process. He said the county would work with its partners to create those connections.

Sean King, director of community relations for Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties, said that his organization supports the new housing compact. He said that Habitat is not typically in favor of more government oversight in housing programs, but creating a countywide framework to streamline the process and provide best practices will benefit all stakeholders.

King noted the frustration arising from housing officials repeatedly navigating varying housing and building departments and said coordination among municipalities would reduce that friction.

“It should not be necessarily one set of rules on the east side of the road versus the west side of the road, especially when you’re dealing with affordable housing,” said King. “So, I think this will help that process, and we thank the county for your support.”

Gerard wanted to clarify that housing developers are involved in the compact and said she would hate to think it was just governmental agencies deciding best practices for everyone involved.

Evan Johnson, planning division manager for the county, replied that developers were an integral part of the agreement. He said the first focus of the program was securing partnerships with the county’s largest cities, and they will now look to strengthen relationships with local organizations and developers.

“I will say that at least from the county’s perspective for the unincorporated county, we do have a development group that kind of reviews code changes and things like that,” said Johnson. “So, all of that will be through those types of groups, as well as our affordable housing committee.”

Commissioner Janet Long appreciates that the county’s municipalities and other organizations are coming together to find solutions, but asked how the end-users – the teachers, firefighters, police officers and recent graduates starting families – will know where to go for help and resources. That, she added, is a critical aspect for the program’s success.

Johnson said Forward Pinellas created a web portal for residents and developers that provides all pertinent information for the compact and affordable housing resources. He said residents could search to find information according to their city, and hopes it will streamline the information process.

“We’re trying to make that portal, using our communications and Forward Pinellas, to really kind of beat that message home,” said Johnson.

Now that Forward Pinellas and the four municipalities have adopted the compact, staff will begin work on a housing action plan to identify implementation steps for housing policies. The county expects other locales and agencies to join the partnership in the coming months.

For more information on the Advantage Pinellas Housing Compact, visit the website here. For more information on immediate financial assistance, visit the county website here.

 

 

 

 

 

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    Rose Hayes

    February 24, 2022at7:04 pm

    There were no protection clauses for renters in the developer contracts in St Petersburg. Fl. There were no agreements to include Affordable Units in all these ‘mega’ complexes. Now a one bedroom unit is $1600 to $1800 to rent.

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