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Cape Council addresses affordable housing proposals

By Staff | Apr 16, 2019

Affordable housing was the main issue during public comment at Monday’s Cape Coral City Council meeting with several measures on the table,

During public comment on the consent agenda, Council was urged not to pass a resolution to extend the State Housing Initiative Partnership Program local housing assistance plan.

The fear expressed was the prospect of having “low-income housing” in neighborhoods, resulting in a loss of property values.

To receive the funds, the city must adopt a three-year local housing assistance plan, or LHAP. The current plan expires June 30, said Amy Yearsley as she explained the millions the city receives every year from SHIP.

Kitty Green, president of Habitat for Humanity, said the funding is crucial to help low-income people buy their own home.

“This plan is one of the ways cities help those who don’t make enough money for housing,” Green said.

As SHIP was on the consent agenda, it needed to be pulled for formal discussion by council. Council did not do so, so the resolution to extend the program passed with other consent agenda items.

In another affordable housing-related matter, residents in the northwest Cape had a particular interest in a city-owned property, about six acres, off Old Burnt Store Road that has been designated for multi-family housing development for decades.

The current designation is RD Residential development, but the rezoning and land use map changes it to RML (Residential Multi-Family Light).

Resident fears were the same as those expressed by many who have railed against “attainable housing” – property values, increase in crime, traffic and stress on the city’s utilities.

And as city-owned property, the taxpayers should have input on what happens to it, some residents said.

This property was mentioned as part of the comprehensive rezoning and Land Use Map changes and was not on the council agenda so no action was taken.

Councilmember Rick Williams said that for a city that will build out at 400,000 people or more, the city is going to change and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.

“Where are we going to put the next 200,000 people? They’re coming. We need housing and these people are going to need services like stores and gas stations. The people who work there can’t afford the homes down here,” Williams said. “You need to be aware that something will happen there. It’s a fact of life.”

Williams got some pushback when he said that within five years he would have homes within 10 feet of either side of him and added, “I don’t see how that’s different from multi-family homes.”

Later, Yearsley returned to the podium to discuss a resolution on a proposal to make 11 city-owned properties available for affordable housing.

The city is required to review its surplus land for affordable housing by June 30 as part of its comp plan to meet statutory obligations to provide for the affordable housing needs of current and future residents.

Yeardsley was again met with resistance.

John Jacobs of the Northwest Cape Neighborhood Association said he didn’t oppose affordable housing, but rather the process the city was using.

“The land belongs to the taxpayers. The city manager cannot make this decision. It should be brought to the voters to decide,” Jacobs said.

The properties in question, disbursed throughout the city save for a cluster of three in the southeast Cape, will be donated to partner organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.

“Habitat empowers families, helps them build wealth and to become involved in the community. Children are more likely to graduate from college when parents own homes,” Green said. “We need more affordable homes.”

Council had concerns.

Councilmember David Stokes said those lots could be sold to purchase streetlights where kids are currently waiting for the bus in the dark, to which Councilmember Jennifer Nelson said that affordable housing and streetlights are not “either/or” problems.

Councilmember John Carioscia was not happy with using tax money to build affordable housing, while Councilmember John Gunter was concerned with the cluster in the southeast and that the land had a higher property value than what he would like to see deemed “surplus.”

The measure, with one of the clustered properties removed, passed 5-3, with Carioscia, Stokes and Gunter dissenting.