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Jane Castor’s affordable housing vision starts to take shape

The plan aims to cut red tape and increase efficiency.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor unveiled a series of affordable housing initiatives Wednesday.

Speaking from an 18-parcel piece of land behind Rick’s on the River near downtown Tampa, Castor said the city aims to increase affordable housing stock by cutting red tape, expanding development opportunities and increasing community partnerships.

Her three-point plan addresses housing supply and programs, policy and alignment and community outreach and engagement.

Castor touted the city’s continued population growth.

“But population growth can often result in unintended challenges — particularly limited supply and high demand for housing. While we’ve experienced a construction boom in recent years, less than 5% of the residential permits issued in Tampa for 2019 were for Affordable Housing units.And that’s a real issue,” Castor said.

“In some of Tampa’s traditionally lower-income and working-class neighborhoods, housing costs have increased dramatically over the past decade. This can often price-out certain longtime residents, and in doing so, can often change the character of a neighborhood.”

Castor’s plan includes creating a community land trust that will enable the city to more effectively secure and convey vacant properties and manage properties the city already owns, Castor said.

“By establishing a trust to govern this land, we can cut red tape and streamline the process of making land available for development in line with residents’ needs,” Castor said.

Through the land trust, Castor’s administration has set a goal to increase the city’s annual housing production by 20% by 2027.

The administration is also taking action to restore and preserve at least 100 existing housing units each year through partnerships with Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay, Habitat for Humanity and other community groups.

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Castor is also releasing a new Request for Proposals (RFP) on the 18-parcel land from which she announced the new affordable housing initiatives.

“With this RFP, we will be seeking development proposals that align with city housing affordability needs to become a partner in an ambitious new development program. But we cannot do it ourselves. Before we finalize the RFP, we will launch a series of feedback meetings with the West Tampa community and work together to formulate the comprehensive criteria we expect to be included with all the responses,” Castor said.

She also plans to update the city’s land development code to better align with the city’s vision.

“Our city’s land development code should support land development, not stand in its way,” Castor said. “In its current state, certain sections of the code impede the production of affordable housing units and create unnecessary costs that ultimately fall on the buyer or tenant.”

Those changes will include amending the city’s parking minimums and maximum density allowances, which will allow developers to save costs on including parking amenities in developments, encourage alternative mobility solutions and provide more multifamily affordable housing.

“We can explore changes like this because car ownership is declining and people are increasingly seeking to live closer to where they work,” she said.

The new programs will build on steps the city has already taken including through the Nehemiah Project in Sulfur Springs, Beacon Homes and Genesis in East Tampa and Encore in downtown.

“While these efforts have helped many families, it hasn’t been enough to bridge the gap between supply, demand, and affordability,” Castor said. “For more than a decade, the number of new residents moving to Tampa has outnumbered new housing units built. This has caused both rent and market rates to rise, and it’s forced middle and lower-income residents to compete for the same real estate options.”

Castor also wants to increase collaborations like the one with the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative and Hillsborough County government, which aims to house at least 560 homeless individuals within 560 days.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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