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Palm Coast Tuesday, Apr. 6, 2021 6 days ago

Lack of attainable housing could hinder county's economic development, staff warn

Rental occupancy rates in recent years have been as high as 99%, driving up prices.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Flagler County's population at one point had the highest growth rate in the state, and it's once again rising — but the county faces impediments to economic growth in the form of a lack of attainable housing and limited land available for commercial and industrial use, according to county staff.

Those factors, county Economic Development Manager Dolores Key warned in an April 5 County Commission workshop, make companies less likely to move to Palm Coast.

"Not only do we want a place for the CEO to live when they come or relocate to Flagler County, we want … all the employees to have a place to live," she said. "... We need to get prepared for the housing stock that we may need."

Currently, she said, 83% of the county's housing units are owner occupied. As of 2019, there was a 0.7% homeowner vacancy rate and a 2.5% rental vacancy rate, and rental prices are rising because of high demand. Rental occupancy rates have at times been as high as 98% or 99%.

"And it’s going up fast right now," County Commissioner Greg Hansen said. "Unbelievable, what they’re asking now."

Renters are particularly burdened in terms of the share of their income spent on housing, Key said: As of 2019, over 57% of renters spent more than 30% of their income on rent. Among homeowners, 35% spent more than 30% of their income on rent.

The median home sale price as of February was $278,000. The average wage is $36,000.

"It is really almost cheaper in Flagler County to be able to purchase a home than it is to rent," Key said. 

Key proposed reducing minimum lot sizes to allow for smaller, cottage-type homes.

But commissioners weren't confident that would work. Commissioner Greg Hansen said that developers who want to build small can already do so by requesting a special exception from the county, and Commissioner Joe Mullins said developers favor larger and more luxurious homes because they bring a higher profit. 

"Without some kind of incentive to go the workforce [housing] route … it is going to be hard to get those builders to switch up and do that," Mullins said.

County Administrator Jerry Cameron said the county administration is working on a potential solution for the housing problem.

"We have a solution — or as close to a solution as I think you can find — that will be coming to you next month on attainable housing," Cameron said.

Flagler County also only has about 2% of its total land mass available for commercial or industrial job creation, Key said, while other places she's worked prefer to have about 30% of their land mass available for commercial or industrial job creation.



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