Tallahassee officials hone in on Southside Action Plan, affordable … – Tallahassee Democrat

Tallahassee commissioners committed to their development of the Southside Action Plan and got a look at the progress being made in the city’s strategic plan during their annual retreat on Wednesday.
The Southside Action Plan is a revival of a plan, which once sat dormant for roughly 20 years, to invest in infrastructure, economic development and housing in south Tallahassee with the hope of equitable growth across the entire city. 
It was revived at the 2021 retreat and has since been a focus of a dedicated team to develop a plan that incorporates community input gathered over the last two years. 
In the last five years, more than $471 million has been invested in infrastructure, Blueprint projects, capital improvements and a new fire station on the southside of the city. 
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Discussion of the plan focused mostly on how the area’s housing can be developed to attract residents and businesses. The city currently has 2,391 affordable housing units either completed, under construction, in permitting, or in the planning stage.
The issue, said City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow, is that there is little incentive for developers to create housing that is affordable for low to extremely low-income residents. 
“There probably isn’t private sector solutions,” Matlow said of affordable housing. “Nobody’s coming to the table to build residential units that can be rented for $300 to $400 a month.”
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Matlow suggested subsidizing for public housing and possibly that rent control come back to the table, a move approved by voters in Orange County last year.
“People’s wages aren’t going up. Their housing costs are increasing tremendously, and we have the authority to help people laid out in state law,” he said. “We don’t want Tallahassee to be the city that they have to leave because they can’t find a place to live.” 
Mayor John Dailey said he wanted to focus on “good, solid, sustainable development” and “conversations about how we develop low-income, affordable workforce housing.”
“It is a disincentive for the most part for the development community to truly get in and build low-income workforce housing,” he said, noting that he would like to have a deeper conversation on the direction of the Tallahassee Housing Authority’s work to create more low-income housing outside of the Orange Avenue Apartments project.
Other commissioners stressed the need for a mix of housing levels so as to not concentrate all low-income housing in South Tallahassee while some expressed concern that the actual plan, and stated goals and steps, was not readily accessible to citizens.
“The goal that is being proposed is basically that we have a plan. The original document is much more a visionary statement,” said Commissioner Jack Porter. “The new goal is a plan shall be developed and monitored.”
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But Commissioner Curtis Richardson said, in his experience, people who live in the south side aren’t interested in delving into a written plan, but instead seeing city actions that impact their daily lives. 
“My neighbor is not looking to read a comprehensive plan,” he said. “What she’s interested in is knowing our neighborhood is safe. She’s interested in knowing that we have the appropriate infrastructure in place so we can have things that other parts of the community have. I don’t want to see all of the low-income housing congregated on the Southside of Tallahassee it should be disbursed equitably across the community.”
Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox, who helped revive the Southside Action Plan and spur renewed interest in it two years ago, said she was confident that the amount of community input that has shaped the needs of the community will carry the Southside Action Plan forward. 
“We’ve come a very long way in such a short amount of time after something sat on the shelf for 20 years,” she said. “We want what everyone else wants, and I believe we’re on our way with this plan,” she said. “The people are looking for us to do more than talk. They’re looking for us to do some action and this Southside Action Plan is a step in the right direction.”  
Later in the day, at the city’s regular meeting, Dailey asked for an agenda item to start an academic study to determine if there has been progress in addressing Tallahassee’s designation in 2015 as the most economically segregated city in the U.S.  
“It’s time to measure to see if we have moved the needle,” he said.  
The city’s five-year strategic plan will conclude in 2024 when it will lay out its goals through 2029. Commissioners got a glimpse of the work done over the last year in several categories including economic development, quality of life, public safety and public trust. 
Highlights from 2022 include:


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