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BOCC Ponders Affordable Housing

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Members of the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted unanimously to update the county’s list of properties that are appropriate for the development of affordable housing. The listing, along with incentives for developers, is intended to encourage them to build affordable housing in order to meet the county’s growing needs.

“We’re supposed to have a list of (parcels suitable for affordable housing development) posted on our website,” Director of Public Works/County Scott Herring told the Commissioners. “This is the result of recent legislation basically known as the ‘Live Local Act.’”

Signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in March, the Live Local Act is intended to boost the availability of affordable housing options so that members of Florida’s workforce may live and work in the same communities. The Act became effective on July 1. According to Hernando County Real Property Supervisor Kelly Soreng, properties qualify as affordable based on the Area Median Income (AMI).

A property is added to the list of those designated as appropriate for development as affordable housing when the county decides that it no longer needs that particular property and the BOCC declares it “surplus.” “Typically, when we’re selling a parcel, I ask the board to take two actions: (first) to declare it surplus and then to approve the contract and sale,” Herring said.

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Currently, a property on Cedonia Road is the only parcel of seven that is left on the April 2014 available surplus properties list. The others have been sold. “This list will probably increase as we’re still working out the mechanism to have properties declared surplus but that’s why the list is so small at this point in time,” Herring said.

In any case, a property is placed on the list after the county has obtained it through escheatment, Soreng said. Escheatment is the process by which assets, including bank accounts and property that are unclaimed for a certain length of time, are claimed by the State.

Surplus properties may then be sold to developers who intend to build affordable housing complexes.

Generally, properties qualify as affordable based on the Area Median Income (AMI). Affordable Housing units of up to 120 percent of the median annual adjusted gross income for households within the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) or within the county in which the person or family resides, whichever is greater.

Specific incentives are offered to developers of those properties, including expedited permitting, impact fee modification and flexibility in densities for affordable housing.

According to Soreng, there are currently 22 affordable housing complexes in Hernando County, including the one located at Rochester Park, which opened in 2023. That’s fewer than the county needs, she said.

“The price range for residential housing in Hernando County varies; however, the average sale price for 2022 is reported as $352,205,” she said. “More affordable housing is needed in Hernando County similar to other counties in the state.”

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