Request for $7 Million Workforce Housing Subsidy Should be a “Wake-Up Call”

Request for $7 Million Workforce Housing Subsidy Should be a “Wake-Up Call”

By Samuel R. Staley

The recent request by private developers for a $7 million loan to support workforce housing in Tallahassee should be a wake-up call for local public officials. If workforce housing is unprofitable in the private market, it may be well past time to cast a hard eye on local policies that push these projects over the financially sustainable edge.

Samuel Staley

To be sure, the project in question is complex. The vacant property in the heart of downtown is owned by Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. Bethel is a visionary leader driving redevelopment along Tennessee Street and Frenchtown. Its aspirations include taking over and managing the proposed 300-unit housing complex under its nonprofit umbrella.

However, the project is within easy walking distance to Florida State University, which employs 6,600 full-time employees. A stone’s throw away are a host of major downtown employers, including the Capitol and local government agencies. Star Metro’s C.K. Steele Bus Plaza is almost right across the street. It’s hard to imagine a workforce housing project better situated for profitability.

Indeed, this project should not require subsidization to be financially sustainable.

What can local policymakers do to ensure unsubsidized private workforce housing is profitable?

First and foremost, local officials should take a hard look at their internal regulatory and permitting requirements. In real-estate development, time is money. Regulatory and permitting processes often unnecessarily add to this burden.  

Notably, one of the primary reasons Tallahassee secured its historically largest private employer – Amazon – was because the land for its proposed regional distribution center was already rezoned and permitted. Fortuitously for Tallahassee and Amazon, the landowner, DeVoe Moore, secured these permissions nearly a decade earlier. This saved Amazon millions of dollars and cut off potentially years of delay. Time is money.

The DeVoe L. Moore Center’s research has revealed wide ranges in permitting times and delays for commercial projects, whether shopping malls or telecommunications towers. At times, local officials have applied rules that went well beyond their purview and regulatory authority.

Revamping, streamlining, and rationalizing regulatory permitting processes would be an important step forward in cutting costs and creating certainty for investors and builders.

Indeed, in the current environment, regulations laser focused on public impacts rather than compliance to narrow and specific rules could dramatically reduce permitting times and create more certainty in the permitting process. In short, less would be more.

In his book “The Poor Side of Town: And Why We Need It,” Howard Husock notes that American cities have historically created vast quantities of affordable and low-income housing without direct subsidy.

Since the 1940s, however, governments have adopted more stringent rules, often with little public benefit. The result has been significant increases in compliance costs, lower levels of resiliency in the housing market, and concentrating housing interests in larger and less nimble builders.

Ultimately, a discretionary regulatory process rooted in compliance rather than growth management principles creates conditions that ultimately shift risk from private developers onto the public. This is what we see now in Tallahassee as subsidized loans are used to support housing for households with steady incomes and stable jobs on ideally situated land.

The city and county are well on the way down a slippery slope toward subsidizing larger and larger shares of the private housing market. A comprehensive streamlining of the current regulatory process would go a long way toward reversing this trend.

Samuel R. Staley is director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center in the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University and nationally recognized expert on housing and urban policy. His most recent book is “Megacity Mobility: Integrated Urban Transportation Development and Management.”

12 Responses to "Request for $7 Million Workforce Housing Subsidy Should be a “Wake-Up Call”"

  1. Mr Ed

    Make up you mind… You were for the $25 million dollar stadium giveaway – vote buying scheme – what gives?

  2. This project is wrong on so many levels.

    Both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison felt that state/federal support for a particular religion or for any religion was wrong. They held strongly that compelling citizens to “support through taxation” a specific religious faction violated their natural right to religious liberty. Once the precedence is set, they’ll be no turning back. Our tax dollars will soon be used to build and/or subsidize homes for any organization that considers itself a religion… including but not limited to radical Islamic, LGBTQwhatevers, satan worshippers, and even the emerging climate cultists.

    This is a bad public policy precedence, and it should not be allowed to move forward.

  3. Best article ever and I think we just found the perfect candidate to run against City Commissioner Curtis Richardson.

    Samuel Stanley for Tallahassee City Commissioner!

  4. Try this mental scenario:
    Reverse the situation – OK now the Church in question has the exact percentage of White members as Bethel has Black members. The powerfull local white folk are flocking down there every Sunday singing those “white bread” “Hillsong” hymns.
    Your beloved elected Nannies are preparing to gift 7 Mil to the White Church.
    Think about what the local voters would be focused on. Think about where the local media would be pushing public opinion by what they cover and what they choose not to cover. Would National media pick up on the story? Would nationally known race hustlers be peparing legal actions?
    And finally where would our boy , local expert Dr. Staley, fit into the (fictional only) “in your mind” mental exercise?
    Would the good Dr. Staley still be offering up his same “expert” push the White church over the reluctance of public opionions on Church and Government financial collusion to the tune of $7 mil?

    We are talking not Black vs White race issues here in our reverse the situation fictional “smell test”. We are talking basic color blind “lady justice” statue with our beloved lady holding up the scales of right and wrong justice. Why do you think lady justice in the statue is blindfolded? Think about it.
    And finally I wonder what Dr. Staley’s namesake on the building in which the good Doctor Staley works, Devoe Moore, thinks about Dr. Staley’s antics? Not that that would really make any “right now” difference. Once Devoe Moore stroked that big check to FSU his opinions became legally irrelevant. But FSU naturally would wonder about what they may get when Devoe goes up to Heaven.

    Finally (yeah my beloved proof readers – yet another “finally”) is what Dr. Staley did legal and in keeping within his contract with FSU? Sure it has elements of “Wokeness” but is that legally a relevant hill FSU wants to die on should the entire situation end up in front of Lady Justice?
    FSU would be well advised to review the entire situation and disipline Dr. Staley as appropriate and in keeping with his contract with the University and his ultimate employer the State of Florida. Legislators are in town now and they, and their staff, do read Tallahassee Reports.

  5. “The city and county are well on the way down a slippery slope toward subsidizing larger and larger shares of the private housing market.”

    Don’t kid yourselves. It’s by design and part of the overall Marxicrat plan to destroy our Great Republic and eliminate our individual freedoms and liberty. Their goal is to control every aspect of our existence.

    That’s not hyperbole… it’s reality… and be had better wake the hell up about it, before it’s too late.

    May God help and protect us all.

  6. When is the city going to give me “a subsidy to ensure my financial stability”…? I won’t hold my breath.

  7. I’m supprised our elected Nannies were able to get the FSU employee, Dr. Staley, to add his credentials to the push to appease Bethel Church.
    Reading Dr. Staley’s educated words is designed to make the issue of “workforce housing” seem to be a real and legitimate concern of our elected Nannies.
    Well its not.
    Our elected Nannies see the $7 Mil as an investment guarantee of the powerful Bethel Church continueing to “deliver” the local Black “Democrat” vote for many years to come.
    Dr. Staley may not even know our elected Nannies real motive, but then again he likely does know, or should know what our elected Nannies true motives in the $7 Mil giveaway.
    Wake up Dr. Staley…unless you are nothing but a leftist pandering tool…then carry on in disgrace Sir.

  8. A big chunk of that $7 Million looks like it will be spent on OVER Designing the Units. Why are you creating really HIGH END units for what you call the “workforce”? Build the very Basic Plane Jane Units and save $Millions. That way they can be a little more affordable. If they want a fancier place to live, they work hard, get promoted, earn more money and move up. There is nothing wrong with working your way UP the Ladder in Life so LET THEM.

  9. How come DeVoe Moore paid so little in property taxes for the site that now houses Amazon if, according to this article, rezoning and permissions were secured a decade earlier?

    Government doesn’t need to be in the housing business and any land owned by a church that does not have a church sitting on top of it needs to be taxed.

    The rich and/or the religious organizations should be ashamed of not paying their fair share for the government services funded by taxes, even if they took advantage of existing tax laws lobbied for by the rich and/or religious organizations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.