Sarasota County starts affordable housing survey, workshops

Sarasota County leaders are seeking feedback and advice on the area’s affordable housing crisis through a new online survey and upcoming workshops.

The survey is designed to gauge what programs and policies local government, nonprofit and development leaders should pursue to combat what the county is calling “gaps in the housing mix.”

Launched last week, the 18-question survey will be available through Dec. 16. It can be completed in about five minutes and submitted anonymously.

Tap here to take the survey

The first few questions require some thought, so show it the reverence such an important issue deserves.

The critical lack of affordable housing across the area has recaptured the attention of county and local municipality leaders over the past year as they have struggled to implement new policies or projects to help combat the issue in any coordinated way.

Just in the last six months, I alone have written about it again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again.

Not to mention that the whole survey concept sounds so familiar because Shelby Webb (who’s now kicking ass for the Houston Chronicle) poured a year of her life into studying the causes of the affordable housing shortage here and its effects on the community.

Read her story, watch her documentary, play with the interactive photo wall and see the raw data itself at

The county’s survey is their first step in a more comprehensive effort to facilitate more productive discussions about what to do to create affordable housing and, most importantly, who needs to do it.

County long-range planning manager Allen Parsons has spearheaded much of the effort for the county and announced this year the county would lead the survey and conduct a series of workshops with stakeholders from each local municipality, area advocacy groups and major developers about how to create an overall plan to promote more affordable housing.

Some workshops among those organizations are happening now and the county is planning public forums after the New Year (once they’ve crunched their own survey data).

But central to the ongoing discussion remains busting myths about who affordable housing serves for all those folks who wanna talk shit about Pruitt-Igoe but haven’t even seen Koyaanisqatsi.

To that point: In contrast to click-bait Facebook articles about Section 8 housing, “affordable housing” is actually defined by law as homes or apartments that are affordable to those earning up to the area’s median annual income — currently $61,900.

Today, 4 in 10 households in Sarasota County spend more than one-third their total income on rent or a mortgage, and half of those families spend more than half of their income on housing, Parsons has found.

“That’s only going to get worse,” he said this summer. “Unless we do something now.”

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