The DeLand City Commission approved a package of changes to the city’s housing regulations aimed at tackling affordable housing. The measures passed on first reading and will need a second approval from the City Commission to become part of city code.
The proposed changes were forwarded to the City Commission by the Planning Board last month. If passed on second reading, accessory dwelling units will be easier to build, single-family housing will no longer require as much parking, and the Downtown Commercial District could see more housing.
The changes are not a blanket fix for the city’s lack of affordable housing, but, as Planning Director Mike Holmes called it, “just the first step.”
The first reading of the changes was approved unanimously by the City Commission, but not without some discussion, specifically about the parking measure.
Single-family homes in the city’s core gateway are currently required to have four parking spaces — two in an interior space, like a garage, and two outside in a driveway. The proposed changes eliminate that indoor parking requirement, reducing the number of parking spaces required for every single-family home to just two.
City Commissioner Kevin Reid worried that reducing the number of parking spaces would mean more cars would be parked in the street. While that may occur in some cases, Holmes said, one of the goals of the changes is to lower the cost of homes by reducing the need for a garage large enough to fit two vehicles.
Some others on the City Commission agreed with Reid in his concerns about parking, and City Commissioner Jessica Davis asked just how “affordable” the changes would make DeLand housing, but, ultimately, the commission agreed the steps were necessary.
City Commissioner Chris Cloudman argued some of the changes ought to go even further, like a change that reduces the minimum square footage for single-family homes to 900 square feet. He suggested reducing the square footage even further, to 600 square feet, which would put DeLand’s codes more in line with some of Volusia County’s land development codes.
Mayor Bob Apgar suggested the city should “crawl before we walk,” and implement the change to 900 square feet and revisit the square footage on its own at a later date.
The changes may result in some “unintended consequences,” he said, but those could be revisited.
“People can’t just say, ‘We agree, we need more affordable housing,’ and not do the things necessary to make it happen,” Apgar said.
Along with the unanimous approval, the City Commission tasked city staff with identifying the lowest square footage allowed for homes in Volusia County and to provide more clarification on the impacts of changing parking requirements.
The City Commission is expected to take up the measures on second reading at its next regular meeting, at 7 p.m. Monday, May 2.
The DeLand City Commission meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Monday of every month in the City Commission Chambers at DeLand City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave.
Full agendas as well as live and archived broadcasts of City Commission meetings are available online at the city’s website, HERE.
The proposed revisions
The proposed changes to the city code are classified as nine different items. Overall, the changes are intended to reduce construction costs, allow homeowners and homebuilders more flexibility, and encourage infill development by reducing the number of hurdles between application and construction of everything from building an accessory dwelling unit to fixing up an existing home.
Here is what the changes would do.
- Reduce the minimum square footage for single-family homes’ “living area,” which excludes garages, to 900 square feet. The current code provides a range for different zoning classifications and scenarios between 1,000 and 1,800 square feet.
- Allow new single-family residential housing in the Downtown Commercial District. All existing residential housing is technically considered “nonconforming,” or in violation of city code.
- Eliminate the square-footage requirement for multifamily residential housing in the Downtown Commercial District. “The proposed change creates flexibility for downtown housing where one would expect smaller units,” Planning Director Mike Holmes wrote.
- Provide additional flexibility for scenarios where residential housing can be on the ground floor in Downtown DeLand. From Holmes: “The current code requires residential units to be at least 300 feet from either roadway. The proposed amendment reduces that distance to 50 feet.”
- Make it easier to construct accessory dwelling units. The landowner would no longer be required to live in the main home or the ADU on the property, and homeowners looking to build an ADU on their property would not need approvals by the City Commission, just an approval from the city’s planning staff.
- Change the parking requirements for single-family homes in the city’s core gateway. The current city code requires four parking spaces for each single-family home: two indoor and two outdoor. This change would remove the indoor parking requirement, eliminating the need for every home to have a garage and reducing the total parking spaces required of each single-family home to two.
- Reduce the parking required for multifamily housing in the core gateway pending an accepted traffic study.
- Simplify when a homeowner needs a variance approved by the Planning Board to have work done on their home and when changes can be approved by city staff.
- Allow for the city to create, per Holmes, “an affordable housing program to be established for the waiver or deferment of impact fees by creating a Local Housing Assistance Plan.” This proposal is not a change to the city’s land development regulations, but a proposed program that could be created to help provide more affordable housing.