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Pembroke Pines (FL) Focuses on Ambitious Affordable Housing Initiative

October 23, 2006

Pembroke Pines (FL) Mayor Frank Ortis and city leadership are steadfast in their resolve to continue to be progressive, and by leveraging current resources in creative ways, will remain true to its strategic vision and motto: “Join Us and Progress with Us.”

One of the most effective areas of municipal governance has been the diligent approach to providing, and planning for, affordable housing options for senior citizens and, most recently, the workforce of the community.

Furthering the concept of affordable housing, the city commission has directed city staff to incorporate an affordable workforce housing component within the “City Place” project slated to be constructed on 144 acres of city property at the southwest corner of Pines Boulevard and Palm Avenue.

Senior Housing

Recognizing that the problems facing seniors would best be addressed with a comprehensive, regional solution, Pembroke Pines forged an alliance with the Area Agency on Aging, the county’s prime advocate for the elderly. As a result of this partnership, the city was able to build its first senior center and transportation hub in 1995.

The city commission moved to address these challenges by first developing the Southwest Focal Point Senior Center to include an affordable housing component of 190 apartments. Demand for these affordable rental apartments outstripped supply. The city then developed a second site, “Pines Place,” at Howard C. Forman Human Services Park with 498 apartments.

In addition to the 688 senior apartments, the city offers superb support services for seniors and their families – free door-to-door transportation, health support services, nutrition programs, adult and Alzheimer’s day care, social services, information and referrals, counseling, recreation and leisure—and serves 700 clients daily.

Pembroke Pines’ housing, programs, activities and services are designed to 1) maintain intellectual and social skills; 2) enhance self-esteem; 3) promote dignity; and 4) preserve physical health and function. In addition, great value is placed upon the needs of family, friends and caregivers, who carry a host of concerns and responsibilities even when an elder is living independently.

Description of Public-Private Partnership and Collaborations

The Southwest Focal Point Senior Center is operated by the city in partnership with the Area Agency on Aging (AAA). “About the same time that the city was moving forward to open the first senior center, the Area Agency decided to divide the county into sections with a focal point senior center in each. Pembroke Pines immediately agreed to be an administering agency… The city itself has done a magnificent job of becoming part of that vision and making it a reality,” says Edith Lederberg of the AAA.

Additional Partners

  • The city’s Charter School System and the Broward County School District work with the Senior Center to provide meaningful volunteer experiences to students and organize intergenerational programming.

  • More than 300 volunteers from the community serve in numerous ways.

  • Pembroke Pines and Broward County Transit provide a network of 33 buses to support: 1) Broward County Meals on Wheels nutrition program; 2) ADA/Paratransit for people with disabilities; 3) a door-to-door service for seniors to shop and travel to appointments; and 4) local fixed routes for all ages.

  • The Center’s on'site commercial center which leases space to doctors and commercial enterprises that provide essential services such as banking, vision and foot care, a video store, a hair salon and a barber shop.

  • Barry University’s School of Nursing provides student nurses

  • Nova Southeastern University staffs a geriatric and psychological clinic.

  • AARP runs a job placement program at the Center.

Workforce Housing

An important element of the City Place master plan is the inclusion of affordable workforce housing. A critical influence on the project has been the rapidly escalating value of southeast Florida real estate, in particular, Broward County. This escalation has resulted in a very competitive residential real estate market making the availability of affordable housing to the community’s workforce extremely challenging.

On November 15, 2004 Commission passed resolution #3013 confirming commission support for inclusion of affordable housing in the City Place project. In the July 26, 2005 edition of the Sun Sentinel newspaper, Sentinel Business Writer Alexandra Navarro Clifton reported that the median priced home in Broward County rose to $378,000. This price level makes it extremely difficult for many members of the workforce to access the housing market.

The City Place project proposes that 250 affordable housing units be constructed. It is anticipated that these homes will be condominiums as this style of home can be realistically constructed in the price range targeting workforce housing.

It is the goal of this workforce housing initiative to ensure that the American Dream of home ownership is available to those individuals who have chosen careers critical to sustaining a vibrant and desirable community, such as teachers, firefighters, and police offices. Currently, a third year teacher earns $34,000/year, a third year police officer earns $47,000/year, and a third year firefighter earns $44,000/year.

In order to ensure that the affordable housing element remains affordable, certain legal conditions may be placed upon the individual properties. A possible solution would be the establishment of a land trust wherein the city would hold title to the land while an individual or family holds title to the actual structure. With the value of the land taken out of the equation the city can build homes at below market rates. The title of the actual home structure can later be transferred (sold) to others in need of affordable housing with possible restrictions placed upon the amount of “profit” resulting from the sale from one individual to another.

Simply offering homes at a certain affordable price level is not the total answer to the affordability challenge facing many local communities in Broward County. The county, local taxing authorities, municipalities, the financial community, developers, and real estate professionals must develop strong and unified alternative approaches to the production and acquisition of a sustainable stock of affordable housing properties.

For information on this affordable housing initiative, contact Charles Dodge, Pembroke Pines City Manager at 954-431-4884.