PALM BEACH GARDENS — The city’s strategy for spurring developers to build housing that police officers, firefighters, teachers and government employees can afford has not yet emerged, but the city is making advances toward so-called workforce housing anyway.
Here’s what’s happened to date.
Avenir: The developers of the 3,900-home community on western Northlake Boulevard drew criticism from housing advocates when they got a pass on building 250 townhouses for working-class families, as originally promised. They will pay $10 million instead. City officials reasoned the housing would get built faster and in a better location. Palm Beach Gardens will spend $5 million on the development of a comprehensive workforce housing program and $5 million on renovations to the Burns Road Recreation Center.
Arcadia Gardens: Palm Beach Gardens has no requirements that developers build housing for working people or pay up, but the developers of this 220-apartment community for people 55 and older said they’d give the city $550,000 to put toward such housing. United Group of Companies and Sina Companies are the co-owners and co-developers of the apartments on 11 acres on the Amara Shrine Center property, which is on RCA Boulevard just east of Alternate A1A.
Solera at City Centre: Eastwind Development recently proposed 136 apartments, including 14 priced for emergency responders, teachers, nurses and government employees, at the corner of PGA Boulevard and U.S. 1. Eastwind President Jack Weir, also a board member of the Housing Leadership Council of Palm Beach County, hopes it becomes a model for other north county developers to include workforce housing in their projects. The plan is in the early stages, and must clear several technical hurdles. If the developer succeeds, the apartments would be the first workforce housing built in the city.
Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker didn’t shy away from the topic of workforce housing during her state of the county address to the Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce this week. About 700 multifamily units have been built, she said, and the county has collected $3 million in fees from developers. Some of that money can be used to help working people with down payments.
Addressing the shortage will require more development on fewer acres in a responsible manner, she said, adding her staff will be reaching out to cities for help.
Economists and planners have said Palm Beach Gardens should concentrate development of new housing within a half mile of a future Tri-Rail station on PGA Boulevard.
The city is hiring an expert to help with a workforce housing program, spokeswoman Candice Temple said. Palm Beach Gardens will host workshops in the future to engage the public, she said.