Broward cities will soon be asked to help pay for county’s affordable housing effort

All of Broward’s cities will soon be requested to financially pitch in for Broward County’s growing affordable housing crisis that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to fix, commissioners agreed Tuesday.

The cities will hopefully be “motivated to take on some of the burden,” said Ralph Stone, Broward County’s director of the Housing Finance Division. He called the problem “overwhelming.”

The final plan is likely to take 30 years to meet “all of the affordable housing deficiency,” which is an estimated 150,000 units, whether that’s rental apartments, condos, townhouses or houses, Stone said Tuesday.

Failure or doing nothing is not an option, he warned the County Commission during a workshop.

If the county doesn’t make a plan work, “we become California. We do not want to become California,” he warned, referring to both the growing number of homeless people living on the streets, now estimated at 170,000, but also the growing number of residents leaving the state because it’s too expensive. California has had three consecutive years of population declines, according to U.S. Census data.

Broward now has $23 million earmarked for affordable housing projects. Among its recent projects: In July the county spent $7,250,000 on a Motel 6 in Pompano Beach that will ultimately become 300 to 400 units of affordable units. The building has not yet been demolished.

The details of the county’s master housing plan will come later, but are widely expected to need the buy-in of the cities to make it work. The details of where the money originates from will come later, too.

County officials said they will urge cities that “you have a piece of this” and they’ll be “put on notice” and hold cities “accountable,” said Nonprofit Executive Alliance Executive Director Sandra Veszi Einhorn.

Agreed Commissioner Lamar Fisher: “You can only request and hope they buy in. It’s where we need to be as a county. The time is now to begin.”

A final plan for the first 10 years will be presented Jan. 27. In February or March the county will be asked to approve land-use adjustments to increase density in specific areas, and also the funding options.

The county didn’t fully realize until 2018 there was a crisis, Edward “Ned” Murray, associate director with the Jorge M. Perez Metropolitan Center at Florida International University, told county commissioners. The solution “has to be a countywide effort,” he said.

There has been a 70.5% rent increase since 2016. Rents rose by almost 39% between 2021 and 2022 alone, he said, with the average rent being $2,693 last year, up from a monthly rent of $1,942.

Since 2018, the cost of a single-family house in Broward has gone up by 67%, for a $600,000 median sale price in August. The median cost of a townhouse and condo was $275,000 in August, down from $375,000 a year earlier.

Murray said there are “huge, huge gaps” with the cost to have a home, and how many more affordable units are needed:

  • In Fort Lauderdale, the average rent is $3,470 for a two-bedroom, but the median renter income is $47,108. That city has a supply gap of 7,297 units.
  • In Tamarac, the average rent for a two-bedroom is $2,367. The median renter income is $47,362. There’s a supply gap of 2,421 units.
  • Rent for a two-bedroom in Hollywood is $2,821, but the median renter income is $43,079. There’s a supply gap of 6,800 units.

County leaders said they’ll also be strategic about where the housing is built.

The plan looks to increase the supply along corridors where people would expect there to be more housing, including downtown areas and high traveled areas where mass transit could be added, said Commissioner Michael Udine.

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at lhuriash@sunsentinel.com. Follow on X, formerly Twitter, @LisaHuriash

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