Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Another Pitch for Affordable Housing

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Another Pitch for Affordable Housing

Article excerpt

SARASOTA

Local multimillionaire businessman Harvey Vengroff is reviving his idea to build a large apartment complex on Fruitville Road.

Challenging city leaders to get serious about affordable housing, Vengroff is seeking permits for a four-story, 700-unit apartment building east of downtown at 2211 Fruitville Road.

The apartments would be the biggest addition of new, non- subsidized affordable housing here in recent memory. But Vengroff has been making a similar pitch for years without success.

Past efforts have been stymied by city zoning that does not allow anywhere near the density that the project requires. City officials also have criticized a lack of detail in the plans for financing and operations.

Vengroff could not say if there was reason to think he will be successful this year, other than the growing need for affordable housing.

Many low-wage workers with jobs in Sarasota live far from downtown, including in Bradenton or North Port, Vengroff noted, because they cannot afford to live close to the city.

Meanwhile, city leaders are holding special meetings to discuss traffic problems.

"Why build roads when we can just build them a place to live?" Vengroff asked. "I mean, doesn't that make sense?"

Last week, Vengroff filed paperwork with the city seeking increased density in the area, from 25 units per acre to 100. The apartments would be built on an eight-acre lot.

Landlord for

1,500 units

Affordable housing has long been a problem in Southwest Florida, as city and county leaders know.

The problem has been exacerbated during the economic recovery by rapidly rising home prices and swelling apartment rents, at a time when worker wages have been shrinking.

Sarasota County planners have put together a new strategy with task force committees and research, and city leaders in Sarasota also have talked about the problem at times.

But critics fear those efforts come too late, given how local officials have allowed developers to skate on some of their affordable housing obligations. …

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