A second study concentrating on how the county could address its housing problem without having to use large amounts of new local funding or create new governmental organizations recommended taking the following steps:
- Create a new mixed-use zoning category
- Allow for smaller minimum lot sizes of 5,000 square feet
- Allow clustered development to save land
- Allow “properly constructed and aesthetically compatible” manufactured housing
- Implement quality-based development standards
- Allow homes with narrow lot lines
- Encourage mixed-use development that includes single-family detached homes, condominiums, apartments and commercial development
- Build or rehabilitate apartments utilizing Low Income Housing Tax Credits in mixed-income development
- Encourage employer assisted housing
- Preserve the existing housing stock, including providing incentives for its rehabilitation
- Reform the permitting and approval process
- Create a workforce housing parade of homes and design competition
A new non-profit, Home St. Charles, is being organized under the local Economic Development Council to achieve several objectives based on the recommendations to the county.
Priorities currently include passage of legislation allowing a minimum lot size of 7,500 square feet; receipt of $350,000 of annual HOME funds from the St. Louis County Consortium for downpayment assistance; working with major developers and the local home builders association to hold a workforce parade of homes; and working with several employers to implement employer assisted housing programs that will match HOME funds for their employees.
Dribin said that a number of lessons have been learned as the county has attempted to undertake a workforce housing program:
- Understand your community. Do not initially attempt programs that are significantly beyond the comfort level of the community.
- Build alliances. Don’t look only to the “usual suspects,” but expand your alliances to other interested groups. In the case of St. Charles County, the business community has been the driving force.
- Challenge standard assumptions about what can be done.
- Start small to maximize the initial chances for success. Build upon those successes.
- Have easily measurable tasks.
- Be inclusive.
- Be prepared to change your plans.
- Maximize market-based solutions. Communities are far more comfortable with this than with government-imposed solutions.
- Give credit to others.
NAHB and Fannie Mae will be holding “Close to Home: A Symposium on Workforce Housing” in the National Housing Center in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 8. The symposium will feature new research on the housing needs of America’s working families and will include panels that will address defining the problem, overcoming barriers, workforce housing success stories and partnerships for solutions.
For more information on the symposium, e-mail Blake Smith or call him at 800-368-5242 x8583 or contact Kym Kilbourne, x8447.