At the January 16 Gulfport City Council meeting, Former State Senator Jeff Brandes offered his expertise on affordable housing to the councilmembers.
Gulfport Affordable Housing
After two years in the Florida House of Representatives, and 10 years in the Florida Senate, Brandes turned his attention to the Florida Policy Project. Here, he focuses on “best practice,” and how issues can be easily solved on a bipartisan basis.
“My big takeaway is that there isn’t really a strategy in Tallahassee,” said Brandes.
He explained how this issue affects Council, as they have to work around these constant changes in the state government. His organization works with universities to do research on issues like property insurance, criminal justice and prison reform, and housing affordability. According to Brandes, between 800 to 1,000 people move to Florida every day.
“It’s simple. Supply is staying steady, but demand is off the charts,” said Brandes. “The issue is that Pinellas County is a peninsula on a peninsula, so there isn’t much space to grow out.”
Brandes offered three possible solutions to the issues. The first solution is accessory dwelling units, or ADUs. These are “garage apartments,” which allow people to efficiently and affordably offer the space they have to those who need it.
Secondly, he spoke about up-zoning. This involves loosening zoning restrictions in favor of higher densities of residents and an assortment of housing. He argued that zoning has led to a segregation based on class, and removing these restrictions will help fix this, as long as the City adds more affordable housing options. It also incentivizes unique housing designs such as tiny homes, micro-apartments, and modular homes.
Finally, Brandes brought up the issue with permitting. He said the issues with housing affordability can’t be solved without innovating the process that goes into building a house. Staffing, timing, and permitting problems all make it more difficult to build a house, and therefore make it more expensive.
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