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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jan. 10, 200712:00 PM EST

Residential Task Force wrapping up recommendations

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

The Jacksonville Economic Development Commission’s Residential Task Force is one meeting away from adopting its draft document detailing plans to create workforce housing Downtown.

The group’s strategy will be presented to the City Council for review before the proposals are combined with the final findings of the other JEDC task forces, which were charged with developing Downtown strategies for retail, infrastructure and pedestrian and open space elements.

JEDC Executive Director Ron Barton said the final recommendations of the other task forces will become part of the commission’s strategies as soon as they are approved by the Downtown Committee of the JEDC. The Residential Task Force is the only group that will present a draft to the City Council because it’s the only task force whose recommendations will require public funding.

“We’re going to say to the City Council, ‘Here’s how you do it. It needs money,’ ” said Barton.

At Tuesday morning’s meeting, the task force went through the draft page-by-page and amended the document that will be finalized and approved next week.

The Downtown Workforce Housing Strategy (DWHS) defines the parameters of workforce housing and contains an analysis of the current demand. It also includes incentive and assistance programs for developers and consumers that will allow the JEDC to work with the private development community to generate economically-viable residential housing projects.

Projects will be evaluated based on Area Median Income (AMI), currently $60,300 in Jacksonville, and the ratio of consumer income to housing debt.

Florida House Bill 1363 defines “workforce housing” as that which is affordable to persons or families whose total annual household income does not exceed 140 percent of the AMI, adjusted for household size. According to the DWHS, the 140 percent limit in Jacksonville in 2006 is $76,020 for a family of three and $59,080 for a single person. Based on housing cost to income ratio guidelines used by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans Administration, the proposed DWHS ratio is 36 percent. That makes the maximum sales price of a two-bedroom Downtown Jacksonville workforce housing unit $308,000 in 2007. An apartment with two bedrooms would have a maximum rental rate of $1,629 per month.

The task force estimates the future of workforce housing will be at a ratio of 70 percent owner-occupied, 30 percent rental.

The strategies include deed restrictions requiring owners to occupy units for at least six years, caps on appreciation and limiting the pool of subsequent purchasers to those who meet the income guidelines for the program in order to keep real estate speculators from purchasing the units.

“That’s a way to keep workforce housing on the market in the future,” said Roger Postelthwaite, task force chairman and COO of the Landmar Group.

For developers, the proposed subsidies to reduce the cost of acquisition or construction include Residential Recapture Enhancement Value Grants (RevGrant), the Residential Loan Program, expedited permitting and public/private partnerships.

The task force decided financial assistance programs designed to help make workforce housing attainable to potential buyers will be administered through the Jacksonville Housing Commission.

Barton also proposed reconvening the group on a limited basis as projects are approved and implemented in order to review the performance of the process.

“We will continue to develop the strategy. There is no substitute for test-driving projects through a program,” he said.

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