On June 20, the SJC Board of County Commissioners approved a heavily modified version of the new Workforce Housing Ordinance, which is designed to encourage builders to build and sell nearly 300 new homes at no more than $260,000 in the next few years. The Chamber has been actively involved with the County Commission and the NE Florida Builders Association (the original sponsors) helping to modify the original proposed ordinance so that more of our essential workers (public safety, first responders, nurses, teachers, and aerospace technicians) can afford to live near where they work in St. Johns County. Without access to homes in a reasonable price range, St. Johns County will not be able to attract and retain these important professionals who create the backbone of our economy.
As originally proposed, the ordinance would have capped the cost per home at $270,000 with only 20% of a development required to offer homes in this range. In return, the builders were granted additional leeway in lot size, setbacks, and size of the homes. In discussions with Commissioners and the builders over the past several months, the Chamber was able to modify the original language to require that these homes be owner-occupied and not sold for a minimum of two years to prevent house “flippers” from scooping them up and reselling at a much higher profit.
While the Commission was prevented by federal housing law from requiring all sales be made to St. Johns County residents or employees, one major homebuilder, DR Horton, has agreed to privately offer these affordable homes to our essential St. Johns County workers before opening up sales to the general public. Definitely a step in the right direction!
This exercise is just the first step in addressing the County’s affordable, middle-class housing shortage. Later this year, the Board of County Commissioners will begin a full review of the long-range 2025 Comprehensive Plan for Development for St. Johns County to make changes in the existing authority that determines where new homes can be built, and new commercial operations can be erected among other issues.
The Chamber will be heavily involved in this process throughout this year and into 2024 as we focus the County’s attention on where affordable essential worker housing should be allowed. Look out this summer for a series of Chamber-sponsored, county-wide public information sessions on essential workforce housing and other topics of the Comprehensive Plan.
For more information on the County’s 2025 Comprehensive Plan, please go to: http://www.co.st-johns.fl.us/Planning/2025GOP.aspx