Polk County to start affordable housing task force

Published 1:16 pm Friday, October 23, 2009

Commissioners discussed the issue with Dale Holland of Holland Consultants, which is working with the county on its comprehensive plan. Holland said there is clearly an affordable housing issue in Polk County.

In 2008, based on estimates, Holland said, there were about 1,000 households in Polk County that had an annual income of $15,000 or less per year. He also said currently there are only 64 Section 8 housing vouchers in Polk County.

Commissioners discussed the negative stigma the phrase &dquo;affordable housing&dquo; has and discussed that it doesn&squo;t mean creating more government housing, but creating housing that people who actually live in Polk County can afford.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

&dquo;Affordable housing is not public housing,&dquo; Holland said, &dquo;it&squo;s housing the people of Polk County can afford to live in.&dquo;

Commissioner chair Cindy Walker said affordable housing is something Polk County definitely needs. She said if it hadn&squo;t been for her mother&squo;s house, &dquo;You wouldn&squo;t have seen Cindy Walker in Polk County; I couldn&squo;t have afforded it.&dquo;

Some ideas discussed Monday were that some municipalities and counties take tax foreclosure properties and earmark them for affordable housing sites. Holland said some governments sell those properties for $1 so long as the property stays viable.

Polk County Economic Development Director Kipp McIntyre said he plans to speak with high school officials to host a symposium that would bring people in from different regions to speak about what they&squo;ve done regarding affordable housing. McIntyre said he wants students and parents to be involved in the process.

Commissioner Warren Watson said the county needs to encourage the rehabilitation of existing homes and to look at ways to bring in new affordable housing units.

A draft strategy commissioners are considering includes establishing zoning districts such as multi-family residential, density bonus provisions for affordable housing in the controlled growth and intended growth land use categories. They also will consider the need for inter-generational assisted living housing centers/villages, tax incentive financing of affordable housing and a minimum housing code as well as other strategies.

&dquo;It&squo;s a vital issue,&dquo; said commissioner Ray Gasperson, who brought the issue to the table. &dquo;We never seem to get past that talking point.&dquo;