Zoning code amendment discussion for affordable housing in WP | SkyHiNews.com

Zoning code amendment discussion for affordable housing in WP

John Crone, the Housing Coordinator for the town of Winter Park addressed the town council in their Tuesday, May 17 meeting about the plans for the zoning code amendment for accessory dwelling units under the attainable housing program.

The ordinance provides a more tangible definition of accessory dwelling units and caretaker units. It states that Winter Park has so far been unsuccessful in implementing an accessory dwelling unit program due to limited information available and "the confusion caused by Town Code sections that currently govern accessory dwelling units." The ordinance aims to redefine the requirements and uses of the units to give property owners more incentive to take advantage of the opportunity.

An accessory dwelling unit is defined as an attached or detached dwelling unit subordinate to the primary unit which may include a caretaker unit or an affordable housing unit.

The town of Winter Park adopted an ordinance to provide an incentive of up to $10,000 per unit to property owners who develop affordable housing, but to date, only one property owner has taken advantage of the program. Between 2000 and 2015 there were an estimated 1,375 new housing units in Winter Park, but only 159 are estimated to be occupied units. It states, "if these new houses had integrated accessory units, the property owners would have realized financial benefits and the benefits of having a more vibrant neighborhood[…] The local businesses would have benefited by having access to their workforce and by having a more stable local customer base."

The ordinance also looks to add a definition of a new type of accessory dwelling unit called an on-site employee dwelling unit, and make changes to the town code in areas that address financial incentives for building the units. Under current code, a property owner could, in theory, construct a unit without a bathroom or a sufficient kitchen. The new ordinance would require units to have a bathroom and a kitchen with "at minimum: a sink, a refrigerator, and a range." This, according to the ordinance, can promote people living in the units to have affordable and healthy meal choices.

Size limitations for units were also decreased by the Planning Commission from 450 to 300 square feet, but the ordinance aims to increase this number again because small units (300 square feet and under) can lead to "psychological risks" for tenants.

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There are concerns that the ordinance would be abused by property owners who would use the units as short-term rentals to visitors of town through programs such as Airbnb, so the ordinance would have restrictions about the number of units that must be used for workforce housing: as least one (either accessory unit or primary unit) must be used for workforce housing per property.

Mayor Jimmy Lahrman thanked Crone for his hard work and pointed out that there has never been a full time person focusing on attainable housing in Winter Park. Crone said this is a "small piece of the puzzle," and it will take hard work to get the attainable housing program right. The ordinance will continue to be discussed in future town meetings.

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