According to a recent University of Florida study, the average Jacksonville household makes $47,438 annually and with that household income a family can afford a $159,934 house. However, Northeast Florida’s average existing home price is $213,500.

To make matters worse, 61% of those average households earn less than $47,000 per year. On average they earn $31,000, meaning most local families can only afford a $106,615 home, less than half of what the local average house cost is. These numbers flat out tell us that our local housing market is being driven by non-local demand, with local residents ending up being squeezed out of the market.

In response, the city has set up….you named it…..a task force to help identify and design infill housing. Well here’s a word of advice. Use wasted city-owned land in core areas like LaVilla, Downtown, Brooklyn, and East Jax as carrots to attract outside companies specializing in affordable and market rate development, since we can’t seem to get it right locally.

Take notes from Tampa

Central Park Village will fill the gap between downtown Tampa and Ybor city with shops, sidewalk cafes, parks, and townhomes similar to what one would expect to find in NYC or Paris.

For years, Brooklyn has been touted as Jacksonville’s answer for affordable and workforce housing in the core. During a press conference announcing a deal to bring 1,750 residential units on 12.5 acres to Brooklyn, Mayor Peyton announced they would have starting prices as high as $290,000 to accommodate workforce-housing needs. Workforce-housing for who? It is obviously not for the residents of Jacksonville.

Maybe it is time for leaders and task force members to ask the city of Tampa for advise? Like Brooklyn, the neighborhood of Central Park sits just outside of its downtown and has struggled with crime, decay, and urban renewal over years… until now.

Along with the private sector, the Tampa Housing Authority recently struck a deal to demolish the aging Central Park Village projects and replace them with an ambitious mixed-use infill project featuring 4,600 homes for people of ALL incomes, not just yuppies.

In addition, to help grow funds for additional affordable housing developments, the project also calls for a transfer fee that would be imposed every time an owner sells a unit. Its expected that this fee could generate as much as $5 million a year, half going to construct additional affordable housing projects and the other half to fund local social service programs, job training, and neighborhood upgrades.

Mixing the poor and rich. Will it Work?

First Ward Place, was developed by Bank of America CDC. This company started building affordable housing developments in blighted areas during the 1970's. Today, it has funded over 15 similar type developments in cities such as Atlanta, Dallas, Charlotte, and now Tampa.

Before some say it can’t be done, first look elsewhere to find successful examples. <p>Eight years ago, the Bank of America Community Development Corp embarked on First Ward place, a similar undertaking in Uptown Charlotte. Charlotte has one of the South’s fastest growing central business districts.

Despite being a very risky venture at the time, the answer to the question of whether people would want to buy expensive homes next to a community where more than half of the units are government subsidized came quickly. The development sold out before construction started.

Today, crime has been significantly reduced, a new school has been constructed and about one dozen condo towers, along with a sports arena and children’s museum are now under construction nearby. As a result, First Ward Place received an Award of Excellence by the Urban Land Institute.

What does this have to do with Jacksonville?

The task force needs help finding land for real “market rate” housing? Look no further than the community formerly known as LaVilla. All the green colored properties are owned by the city of Jacksonville.

Obviously, we are a city who likes to study and hire consultants with the best of them, only to put the master plans on the shelf for years, then repeat the vicious cycle by hiring new consultants to update the plans. This means one of two things. Either we don’t know what we’re doing or officials are afraid to take the leap called implementation. Well, Metro Jacksonville has a simple answer that won’t cost you a dime in consulting fees. Pick up the phone and call Bank of America CDC and other out-of-town affordable housing developers, since they obviously know what they are doing. Remember that community once known as LaVilla? We have plenty of available and cleared city-owned land, ready to accommodate bricks and mortar. No need for a new revised master plan. Issue an RFP, invite the experienced professionals, let their design teams do the magic, and use the DRC to make sure it meshes with the current downtown master plan. Then take that money ready to be stuck in the consultant’s G-strings and Light Up Laura Street.

For more information:

Central Park Tampa</p> <p>Bank of America Community Development Corporation</p> <p>Bank of America CDC Video</p> <p>Workforce Housing: Using Design as a Creative Solution

Lighting Laura Street</p>