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Carol Lawrence
BEACON FILE PHOTO THINKING VERTICAL — Carol Lawrence, a Realtor in West Volusia for many decades, said we need to start thinking about growing vertically, instead of in sprawling developments of one- and two-story single-family homes.

We chat about the Sadowski Fund, foreclosures and more

Carol Lawrence is a co-owner and broker at RE/MAX Associates Inc. in Deltona. She has lived in West Volusia and worked in real estate here for more than 40 years. She was a member of the Volusia Growth Management Commission in 1985.

What are your thoughts on growth?

I moved to DeBary in 1980, so I have been here for more than 30 years. It is so different today than it once was.

I am certainly not anti-growth, but I was an environmentalist long before I was a Realtor. My issue is that, from what I see, it’s time to start doing more vertical growth, rather than horizontal.

We’re running out of room. There is virtually no land to build on in DeBary anymore. We have to think up, we have to start thinking compact.

The growth around the SunRail station is a good sign, because along with vertical growth, we have to move to a different type of mobility. We need alternative types of transportation, and more walkable communities.

What do you think about affordable housing?

When it comes to setting aside money for affordable housing, that was the purpose of the Sadowski Fund. Billions of dollars have been stripped from that fund; that to me is an outrage.

Even first responders and teachers are in need of affordable housing — there are also those that have to hold down two or three jobs, and still cannot afford a house. There is a lot of spadework that needs to be done in that whole area, in my opinion.

Editor’s note: The Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund was established in 1992 to fund affordable housing from a portion of the documentary stamp tax paid on all real estate transactions.

Since its inception, the fund has been regularly raided by the Florida Legislature to balance the overall state budget. Billions of dollars have been taken from the fund and used for purposes other than affordable housing.

What are the current drivers in the housing market?

Right now, a confluence of events has led to our situation. I’ve been in the business 41 years, and I always say I have seen every type of market — and then, lo and behold, another one comes.

There are three big things impacting housing right now. First, most of the people who would think about retiring right now plan to age in place, and therefore they are not selling their homes.

Secondly is, of course, the pandemic. And, lastly, there is a shortage of materials.

All of those things together are having the biggest impact on the market right now.

What trends do you see?

Recently, I did a search about a month ago of cities in West Volusia, and pulled up about 1,500 homes in various stages of foreclosure.

How many people — singletons and families — will be displaced, and where are they going to go? Properties right now are scarce; there aren’t even rentals available.

Ninety percent of my business is in foreclosures, and I am anticipating I will be busy next year.

It is a heartbreaking part of my business to call people [who are being foreclosed on] and say, “I’m sorry; your house has been sold.”

Adults I am not as worried about — they are adults and can see to their own concerns. My concern is with the children.

Watching television, they said our democracy is broken. Well, it’s not just our democracy that’s broken. A lot of things are broken, and this is one of them.

Other trends I see: There is no slowdown on growth, and availability of land is a problem. DeBary is pretty much at the stage where the available land is gone, and the only way to go is up.

Deltona is going to start growing upwards, too. I see it as a healthy thing, and it’s certainly a trend. If cities want to add to their populations, they are going to have to start going up.

PHOTO COURTESY MARTIN O’CULL
Everywhere you turn are signs of growth: barren land with trees cut clear, and new houses rising like crops from the land. For this special edition, The Beacon talked with several individuals involved, to get perspectives on growth and development, and some insight into the process. We’ll continue this conversation next week. Share your ideas at info@beacononlinenews.com.

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