The Clermont City Council this week introduced a series of ordinances that would add new incentives for affordable workforce housing as the city aims to lift its moratorium on multifamily development in August.
The city has banned new apartment projects since September 2019. The moratorium was set to expire in April, but council members extended it another 90 days to implement the code changes.
“We are very excited to see these ordinances progressing and to see the fruits of our labor come alive,” City Spokeswoman Kathryn Deen said.
The sweeping provisions grew out of a series of council workshops with apartment developers and other stakeholders. One of the major changes addresses the existing density bonus offered for affordable housing, replacing it with an incentive for “workforce housing.”
It’s more than a name change. The new policy is aimed at creating more housing for individuals and families earning between 80-120 percent of the area median income, as opposed to low-income or very low income residents. So an individual earning up to $58,275 per year, or a family of four earning $83,250, could qualify for the below-market rent.
The new policy increases the number of units that must be set aside as workforce housing to 30 percent of the total project, but it also sets the maximum rent for those units at a higher rate than the previous policy. Under the new rules, a developer could build 300 rental units on a 15-acre site, but 90 of those units would be designated as workforce housing. The rent for a two-bedroom unit would be capped at $1,249.
Development Services Director Curt Henschel said the response from industry representatives so far has been positive. “We have not had anyone reach out and say the numbers wouldn’t work for them,” he said. “If you look at the rental product that’s available in Clermont now, it’s a savings of a couple of hundred dollars a month from the market rate. That goes back into the pocket of the resident."
Any workforce housing proposal would continue to require a conditional use permit or rezoning to a Planned Unit Development to achieve any density bonus.
Another proposed code revision would allow Accessory Dwelling Units in all residential zoning categories unless they are prohibited by HOA deed restrictions. The accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, is a secondary housing option to a primary residence that allows a smaller, more affordable and flexible housing option. The ADU provides property owners with an affordable housing option to allow elderly family members, young adults or guests a place to live that makes it more affordable and convenient, based upon each unique situation.
Both Orange and Osceola counties have relaxed regulations on ADUs to allow for more flexibility. The Clermont ordinance would allow structures to range in size from 350 to 800 square feet, but they must be built with similar materials and match the style of the primary residence. Sheds, shipping containers and mobile homes do not qualify.
Two additional code changes are aimed at increasing density in and around downtown Clermont. One is a text change to the city’s Comprehensive Plan allowing for 50% higher density on parcels with Medium Density Residential (MDR) future land use. The current code caps the maximum number of residential units with MDR land use at eight per acre – that’s the same number of units other jurisdictions allow in Low Density Residential areas. The council voted unanimously to transmit the plan amendment to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for comment.
Developers would be able to seek a conditional use permit to build up to 12 units per acre in the designated area south of Lake Minneola and north of S.R. 50. County staff say this change would promote more walkability to the downtown area.
The fourth provision relaxes some of the criteria for seeking a density bonus (25 units per acre) in the Central Business District. The ordinance would allow for wood frame construction of multifamily units and would eliminate the requirement for fee-simple ownership.
“The development community expressed concern that the fee-simple ownership requirement eliminated the ability to add any higher density rental product to the housing inventory of downtown,” according to the staff report.
Public hearings the three code changes will be scheduled for June 26. The hearing for the Comp Plan Amendment would take place Aug. 25.