Government, Local News
8 December 202305:00
Collier County’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee recommended approval Nov. 28 of the use of surtax funds for two workforce housing projects in the county. In 2018, Collier voters approved a surtax to fund capital improvement projects, including workforce housing, which received $20 million from the 1-cent tax. The money, which has yet to be spent, can only be used to purchase land. Miami-based McDowell Housing Partners asked the committee for support of Ekos on Collier, its fourth project planned in the county. Its other local projects include Ekos on Santa Barbara, which features 82 workforce housing units to be completed this month, and Ekos Allegro and Ekos Cadenza, which will provide 160 affordable units for seniors and are expected to be completed next year in East Naples. Habitat for Humanity of Collier County sought funding for workforce housing parcels to be built in the Town of Big Cypress development east of Golden Gate Estates. “These two applicants are not necessarily competing against each other. They’re both just competing for a piece of the pot, which is more than adequate to fund both their requests at this time,” said Housing Policy & Economic Development Division Director Cormac Giblin. The proposed Ekos Collier development will be built on 7.76 acres on Collier Boulevard, south of the Collier and U.S. 41 intersection. The land is currently zoned commercial and mobile home, making it a project that qualifies under the Live Local Act and so won’t be required to go through any public hearings for approval. Mc-Dowell sought $3.75 million from the surtax funding to purchase the land, which would be subject to a 99-year lease with the county to ensure the units remain affordable. The proposed project will be next to Henderson Creek and in a coastal high hazard area. Giblin said that was a major reason why county staff couldn’t recommend approval of using the funds for this project: The coastal management section of the county’s comprehensive plan restricts the county from using public expenditures for development in the high-hazard coastal area. Alternately, the county has a housing element to its comprehensive plan that encourages the development of affordable housing. “As staff, we’re left with two different sections of our comprehensive plan in competition with each other, so we’re constrained … making a recommendation of approval in this case,” Giblin said. “That decision really needs to be made by boards higher than us in terms of which one takes precedence in this case.” The Affordable Housing committee voted 4-2 in favor of recommending this project be used for the surtax, with two members abstaining from the vote. Habitat for Humanity has been operating in Collier County for 45 years, having built 2,500 homes, and seeks to expand its presence to the future Town of Big Cypress. The town was approved by the county commissioners in June as a stewardship receiving area. Located south of Oil Well Road and east of Golden Gate...