City Commission Votes No on The Set Affordable Housing Request
Updated: Jun 3, 2022
Delray Beach has an affordable housing crisis, and a solution was presented to the commission on Tuesday May 17th, which would have cost the city nothing.
Commissioners Juli Casale and Shirley Johnson, along with Mayor Petrolia voted “No”.
Their no vote effectively shut down a role the City of Delray Beach could have played in supporting an affordable housing initiative for single family property owners in Delray’s historically African American neighborhood at no cost to Delray taxpayers.
The commission was asked to allow 5 foot side setbacks instead of 7.5 feet on these county work force housing lots. The program would cost the city no money, no resources and no land but would allow the city to gain affordable housing. The only way the city would have had to participate was by allowing smaller side setbacks that it permits under its own workforce housing program.
“It’s a no brainer,” said Commissioner Ryan Boylston. “It’s an innovative program that we need more than ever…I don’t want to approve a few of these. I want as many as the county will develop.”
The innovative solution was developed by Thrive, a community asset development firm working along with The Set Neighborhood Alliance. Their program, “We Are Home” is a new model for attainable housing. The model matches landowners or legacy families with developers who have county work force housing credits they must fill. The model provides families at the lower income level, who own vacant or dilapidated properties, the opportunity to build single family work force homes.
With the “We Are Home” program the property "owner/buyer" would have to qualify for a mortgage to build their home and they would also have to qualify for Palm Beach County’s work force housing, which provides a subsidy for down payment.
The co-founders of Thrive, Kristyn Cox and Sara Selznick, addressed the commission in public comments at the meeting. Cox pointed out “the owners of these properties have only been faced with selling property not building on property that they owned” and Selznick added “We are losing properties to developers and outside investors every day and Delray locals are being priced out of neighborhoods they were born in, raised in and raised their families in.”
Mayor Petrolia raised an objection to granting the setbacks because there are different restrictive covenant requirements for Delray Beach workforce housing than for the county. Delray Beach requires a restrictive covenant that the home remains a workforce housing unit for 40 years and the county only requires the restriction for 15 years.
“The issue of restrictive covenant is something that is being discussed at our own affordable housing committee,” said Anthea Gianniotes, City Development Services Director. “And whether there should be a difference between rental communities versus home ownership which also builds wealth.”
Gianniotes also added, “Most of us rely on our homes’ equity to do things like replace a roof … Banks are hesitant to let you tap equity...because it has to be income qualified to the next person you sell it to.”
When asked by Vice- Mayor Adam Frankel for her recommendation, Gianniotes said, “I think we absolutely have to use every tool we have to get work force housing in our city.”
The 3-2 vote was a disappointment for Delray Beach, Thrive and The Set Neighborhood Alliance but, most of all, for the legacy families who are waiting for their first homes to be built on their land.