We can’t turn a blind eye anymore. We can’t delude ourselves. There is a local housing crisis, and we need our elected officials to be racing to fix it.
Costs are up, not just for housing, but for everything. Buying groceries will run you nearly double what it did just a few months ago, and that’s before you pay for gas to get to the grocery store, and long before you pay rent.
The DeLand City Commission recently passed changes to its code to encourage the creation of more affordable housing. City commissioners tasked members of the city staff with bringing them recommendations, and then — in two important cases — declined to take the suggestions, which could have brought about meaningful change.
Staff suggested reducing the number of parking spaces required for each single-family home. This could bring down construction costs, and encourage walkability and the lack of car-dependency city leaders insist are goals.
City commissioners declined. They did eliminate an antiquated requirement that every new home in the city core have a garage or carport, but every new single-family home — even a 750-square-foot, one-bedroom unit — must still have space for parking four cars.
A Habitat for Humanity representative told the DeLand City Commission the parking requirement will interfere with his agency’s ability to construct affordable homes on small lots for client families. It will no doubt trip up others trying to build affordable housing.
In another area, the City Commission again failed to go far enough to change the status quo. Staff suggested reducing the minimum square footage for homes in every zoning category to 750 square feet. In some cases, that would be nearly half of what is now the required minimum.
City commissioners declined, instead reducing each zoning category’s current minimum square-footage requirement by 25 percent. In some cases, that will lead to a requirement for 750 feet, but in other zoning categories, the requirement will remain closer to 1,000 square feet.
We can’t fault the City Commission for wanting to be pragmatic. Election year or not, people are always going to be worried about parking spilling over onto the streets, and unsightly homes being built.
But desperate times call for bold measures. Affordable-housing advocates and experts in this arena have repeatedly told the city we are in crisis. In 2021, the city’s affordable-housing task force said the situation was dire, and their data was from 2019.
If ever there was a time to be making big swings, to take big risks, it’s now.
To the city’s credit, they’re trying. Randy Jenkins of Habitat for Humanity said DeLand is leading the way in affordable-housing efforts in Central Florida.
But we can do more. City leaders may want to “walk before they run,” but too many people are running out of housing options. The city must remove the barriers that keep affordable housing out of reach.