Tiny homes

In a presentation about “tiny homes,” the DeLand planning director used a photo of ones in the Tampa area as a representation of the concept.

Affordable housing is a countywide concern in Volusia.

The topic runs neck and neck with the cost of groceries as a kitchen table issue.

Rocket Homes Real Estate reported the Volusia housing market pendulum has swung from being a sellers’ market in January 2022 to a neutral market this past January. As stated on its website, “Prices tend to be reasonable and homes stay on the market for a typical length of time.”

What is reasonable can be in the eye of the beholder and determined by what the beholder has in their bank account.

Here are some numbers to help frame Rocket Homes’ idea of reasonable prices. The average house in Volusia is selling for $322,814, which is an increase of 17.2% from January 2022 to January 2023.

In relation to neighboring counties, Putnam, Lake and Flagler homebuyers all experienced greater increases over that same time period, 20.4%, 19.4% and 17.6%, respectively. While folks who bought in Seminole County needed to ante up 14.9% more.

Different mortgage companies offer slightly different numbers for the increased price of a house. However, the average of realtor.com, Redfin and Rocket Homes shows an increase of 10.7% in the price of a house from January 2022 to January 2023.

Volusia County and town governments have taken steps to help make purchasing a house more affordable. What follows is a snapshot of the ways they are doing it and where someone interested in buying a house can go for help.

In July, the Volusia County Council unanimously approved a five-year plan created by the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee. The plan is named “The Path Forward – Strategies for Success.” Committee Chair Anne Evans wrote in the plan’s introductory letter, “Knowing that there is no one solution for providing affordable housing, this plan represents a toolbox of strategies to build more affordable housing opportunities for the citizens of Volusia County.”

A summary of the plan states that toolbox includes “strategies that will help remove barriers, increase resources and focus on the importance of communication.”

The plan specifies increasing the “supply of affordable housing,” increasing “the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of affordable housing development,” and improving “communication among all parties invested in increasing and preserving affordable housing.”

Digging a little deeper the plan states that the county should be “exploring innovative funding opportunities,” suggests that regulations and processes be streamlined and encourages community participation while involving municipalities.

Municipalities have taken steps on their own to help.

Community Information Manager for the City of DeLand, Chris Graham, informed, “We are in the process of updating our land development regulations and one area we are looking at specifically is affordable housing,” stated Chris Graham, DeLand community information manager, in an email.

He continued, “Roughly 50% of our residents would be considered 'cost-burdened,' meaning that at least 30% of their income goes to housing costs.”

Mr. Graham pointed out DeLand might allow “smaller lots” and “small home subdivisions,” something akin to tiny homes. He noted the measures are not finalized. “But we certainly see the need for affordable housing options as there is both demand and interest from developers to bring these projects to DeLand,” he stated.

In Deltona, Catherine Barker, Deltona’s public information officer replied, “The Community Development Division does provide monetary assistance for first-time homebuyers through our State Housing Initiatives Program.”

A question that often comes up is if a city is requiring developers to set aside a number of homes below market rate.

“At this time, Deltona does not have such a requirement," Ms. Barker stated.

Similarly the City of Port Orange “does not have any programs in place for affordable housing developments at this time,” Public Information Officer Mike Springer explained. He also offered this interesting fact, the city “has not received a request for one within the last 7 years.”

Proactive moves from New Smyrna Beach and Oak Hill include affordable housing for seniors and working with Habit for Humanity, respectively.

New Smyrna Beach began phase one of an affordable housing development for seniors at 600 Greenlawn St. with a groundbreaking in February 2022. The project, Greenlawn Manor, is a partnership with the New Smyrna Beach Housing Authority. It will have 80 units; completion is expected this year.

Oak Hill donated property on Flamingo Road to Habitat for Humanity. City Administrator Kohn Evans wrote “a family has not been chosen yet and the lot is still vacant.” She explained the city continues searching for ways to ensure “regulations do not inadvertently interfere with workforce housing.”

The amount of land available to provide affordable housing can be an issue.

Ponce Inlet Senior Planner Patty Rippey replied, “There are not any large tracts of land that are on the market for development and only about 60 vacant single-family residential parcels.” She noted the town has “multiple residential zoning districts,” providing “a variety of housing options for different income levels.”

Another city that doesn’t have large tracts of land for development is Lake Helen. Lee R. Evett, city administrator, wrote they are “mostly built out.” He explained the city is “very small – approximately one square mile – and historically a single-family residential community with very few multifamily or commercial properties.”

Flexibility to changing market conditions is needed when planning housing developments. Statements such as “at this time” or “depending on market conditions” are often heard when discussing such plans. In that light, the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee will annually review the recommendations in The Path Forward – Strategies for Success “to ensure the strategies remain in alignment with its original intent.”

For more information on the county plan, visit tinyurl.com/mr2xfj29/.

For Volusia County affordable housing assistance, visit tinyurl.com/yw8yv6hp/.

To apply for Habitat for Humanity housing, visit habitat.org/housing-help/apply/.

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