By: Tony Veldkamp, 2022 President of the REALTOR® Association of Sarasota and Manatee
Senior Commercial Advisor, SVN Commercial Advisory Group

SARASOTA, Fla. (May 11, 2022) – This week the Sarasota City Commission will be presented with a plan to update the Comprehensive Land Use Plan for the city. The REALTOR® Association of Sarasota and Manatee supports this important action and here’s why.

Across the nation we are experiencing an unprecedented housing crisis, and Sarasota is certainly not immune to that. Economists suggest a healthy real estate market, for both buyers and sellers, will have about 6-months supply of inventory. Currently, in Sarasota County we are at a 0.6-month supply level. Yes, you read that correctly, just over a one-half month supply. In fact, for all of 2021 Sarasota averaged only a 0.6-month supply of inventory. The year before in 2020, Sarasota averaged approximately 2 months of supply, and the year before in 2019 Sarasota averaged a 3-month supply of inventory.

To put it another way, our area has been woefully lacking when it comes to housing supply for a few years now, and when we speak about the housing crisis we need to look to these figures for some answers as to why we’re in an affordability crisis. It’s basic supply and demand. We need to be doing everything we can to increase the housing inventory in our area. Increasing density and streamlining the development process for affordable units are just some of the ways to address that issue. That is what this updated Comprehensive Land Use Plan will help to address.

In this robust real estate market fueled by low inventory and escalating prices, attainable housing, or housing that nurses, teachers, firefighters, and other professionals at a lower income level can afford, is now on the forefront of everyone’s minds. The possible solutions for attainable housing appear to be within the City’s grasp with this new proposed Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

The Comprehensive Land Use Plan speaks to density bonuses based on a percentage of attainable housing to be constructed. This is welcome density and will allow a mix of market-rate and attainable units in our downtown core and commercial corridors. Height and density have been branded as words residents should fear, but with a finite amount of land and our local population increasing at a rapid pace we can only build out for so long, eventually we will need to build up and increase our density. Otherwise, we will only contribute more to urban sprawl.

The proposed Comprehensive Land Use Plan will also allow and incentivize economic development to occur along our major commercial corridors. An example of this is along the North Trail area. One of the biggest hinderances to redevelopment in this area has been the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and zoning. Ever since I moved to Sarasota over thirty years ago, redevelopment of the North Trail has always been a discussion point. However, an overly restrictive Comprehensive Plan has stifled private investment in new projects along the Trail, causing much of it to look the same for the past thirty years.

At the rate at which Sarasota’s population is growing and there appears to be no immediate slowdown in sight, it’s important to support this smart growth effort at the May 16 City Commission meeting to address the needs and desires of our current and future residents. Because the only way to provide more affordable housing options is to provide mechanisms that incentivize the development of more affordable units. And that is what this new plan does.