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St. Johns County discusses raising the price of some affordable housing

It’s getting harder and harder to find affordable housing in St. Johns County. Commissioners are considering redefining what affordable even means.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — It’s getting harder and harder to find affordable housing in St. Johns County.

Commissioners are considering redefining what affordable even means, possibly raising the price of new homes by $30,000.

The commissioners met on Tuesday and discussed amending the plan and land development code to raise the $210,000 price point for affordable homes to $240,000.

Commissioners say the price increase is due to an increase in lumber and construction costs.

For home buyers, it has been a tough market. Kayla Peloquin co-founded the St. Augustine Moms blog. She has lived in St. Johns County her entire life and waited months before her family could find a home they wanted.

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“We got passed up so many times because people were putting in offers higher than the list price was,” Peloquin said.

Peloquin and her family found a home within their budget after six months of searching.

Peloquin said several people ask in their Facebook group about the best neighborhoods for house hunting.

Peloquin thinks it is worth having the discussion for a change in affordable housing.

“If that gave more people opportunities to buy houses and there were more houses that were nice, and newer, I would be for that,” Peloquin explained.

Some county commissioners said if there is no change, it may discourage developers from building homes.

“We have a conundrum," Commissioner Henry Dean said. "We can set the [affordable housing] price at $210,000, we just won’t have any affordable housing built right now, in my opinion.” 

“I’m trying to hit that sweet spot that will encourage builders to participate to provide affordable housing knowing that when cost of construction has skyrocketed," Commissioner Dean continued. "It’s unrealistic to expect this program would go forward with a $210,000 price point.” 

Some who spoke at the county commission meeting disagreed.

“Developers should not be encouraged to use the [workforce housing] zoning district ordinance to benefit their bottom line while allegedly providing ‘quality-built homes,’” one woman stated.

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County documents read that HUD breaks affordable housing down into four categories: Extremely low, very low, low and moderate.

According to a county presentation, moderate-income families would be able to afford homes costing up to $240,000.

Families making between $58,640-$87,960 a year fall in that category. According to the county, that includes teachers, upcoming professionals and first responders.

County commissioner Jeremiah Ray Blocker says he wants to help families who are unable to afford new homes being built.

“I’ve had conversations with residents that they work here, they want to live and raise their kids here but it’s difficult to afford a place to live here," Blocker said. "Those are the people I want to work towards.” 

County commissioners voted 4-1 on a motion that would ask staff to do research on cost of living and median housing price points along with other metrics.

A hearing date will be set in the future.