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Wanted: Affordable Housing, Daytona Beach solicits partners for additional units

Published Saturday, April 20, 2019 in The Daytona Beach News-Journal.

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DAYTONA BEACH — With aging buildings, long waiting lists and strong economic growth promising to attract more people wanting to move here, pressure is mounting for additional affordable housing units.

The Daytona Beach Housing Authority, led by new CEO Terril Bates, hosted more than 50 developers, lenders and consultants from around the country at a forum this week that involved meetings at the Hard Rock Hotel and a bus tour of sites for potential affordable housing development.

Much of Daytona Beach’s public housing is between 30 and 50 years old, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s funding falls far short of what it would cost the housing authority to rebuild or construct new units, Bates said.

“We get $1 million a year in capital funding,” she said, “and we probably have somewhere about $50 million to $60 million of need. So the properties continue to age and deteriorate, and we have no funding mechanism for repairing and replacing things.”

Other than, that is, private-public partnerships.

“This is the catalyst for us,” Bates said.

Nathan Simms, executive director of development for the housing authority, said the agency — with a $24 million annual budget, staff of 45 and 779 units — is looking to “maximize” its developed properties by adding density and boosting the number of units for households whose income is up to 80 percent of the area median income.

“We’re looking to deconcentrate poverty through the creation of mixed-income communities and mixed-use developments,” he told the group.

The bus tour took the group to properties across the city, including the high-rise Windsor and Maley apartment complexes, built in 1967 and 1972, respectively, on South Beach Street across from the marina. Officials said they also have nearly 100 city-owned vacant lots available for projects.

Several of the professionals at the forum Thursday said the city and housing authority’s organizing the forum is an unusually aggressive approach to seeking additional affordable homes. Among them: Steve Smith, president of Provident Housing Solutions Inc., a nonprofit that developed two affordable housing projects in Clermont.

“I applaud the city for hosting this. I’m seeing a commitment here,” Smith said, adding that the embrace of city officials stands in contrast to some cities that stay away from affordable-housing programs in fear of NIMBY-ism, the “not-in-my-backyard” phenomenon that rises in opposition to such developments.

City Commissioner Paula Reed said she is more than hopeful about the forum’s results.

“We are serious about this,” she told the assembled group. “This is not just an opportunity for you to come to our city and for us to shine. ... We look forward to your applications.”

In addition to Mayor Derrick Henry, who calls affordable housing his top priority, the Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce and the FAITH social justice coalition have shined a light on the needs, as some 21,000 households in the area spend more than half of their income on rent.

Pete Gamble, the housing authority’s retired longtime administrator, said the region is well known for at least two reasons.

“Central Florida, where you are right now, is No. 1 for tourism in the world. Central Florida, where you are right now, is also No. 1 for the most unaffordable housing in this country.”

Across Volusia County, housing officials and others are concerned.

“Rental properties are starting at $1,500, $1,700 a month. You can’t afford that,” said Regis Sloan, vice chair of the New Smyrna Beach Housing Authority.

That agency had a waiting list of 200 and stopped taking applications, she said, because those on the bottom were never going to access the affordable housing stock.

New Smyrna officials, too, were in attendance at the forum to make connections with potential developers. New available housing in one city is good for the entire region, Bates said.

She started as the city’s housing authority’s CEO in October. Simms joined her team in January and on his second day proposed the forum as a way to get prospective partners to get a feel for the city.

“Normally, we would prepare (a request for proposals) and people would respond, but it’s kind of blind responses. They’re looking at Google maps, pulling articles ...” Bates said.

“If they could be kind of boots on the ground here, they could see not only opportunities for affordable housing developments, but other things that might be able to occur here, and then for them to get a sense of the community,” Bates said. “I really am expecting very creative kinds of forward-thinking proposals.”