Ok – so I’m about to throw a lot of numbers at you. I don’t like it either – but it has to be done to frame the story. (Sorry!)
Meet Joe and Grace. Joe and Grace are a newly married couple that just moved here on a permanent change of station (PCS) with the Air Force. Joe is a junior officer or Senior NCO, and Grace is a civil servant. Combined, they make the US Census-defined median household income for The Mid Bay area… about $76,823 per year.
Not bad, right?
Here’s the problem. According to Realtor.com, the median home on the housing market in Niceville, Florida, will go for about $438,000. Next door in Valparaiso – the median home price is slightly higher – at $440,000.
If they want to buy a home that they can afford, including a 20% down payment, that $76-thousand-and-change isn’t going to be enough. According to the how-much-house-can-I-afford calculator from the good folks at Nerd Wallet – Joe and Grace should be looking somewhere in the $320,000 range.
Which was doable in Valparaiso and Niceville – until the pandemic. In the last year – prices in Valparaiso alone were up more than 40%.
All this to say that even the mid bay area’s most affordable homes are no longer attainable for some middle-class residents.
This brings us to Monday night’s (March 14) Valparaiso Commission meeting. A Planned Unit Development (PUD) for Kake Cottages was brought to the commission for initial approval.
A PUD is basically a pre-planned development brought in front of a government for approval. Typically, a developer will use a PUD to ask for some changes in the zoning restrictions a city has put in – in exchange for some other considerations the developer can offer. In this case, the developer, David Fedonczak, wants to build smaller, 900 square foot houses to bring more affordable housing to the area.
Kake Cottages would be just that – according to the argument, the engineer for the developer Matthew Zinke of Jenkins Engineering told the commission. The development would place 20 homes, each with a price point of about $250,000, across the street from Valparaiso’s Coca Cola Bottling facility.
Debate – mostly from the citizens in the gallery to the commission followed. The lightly-attended meeting saw three of the 15 or so people in the gallery speak against the development. Their apprehensions spanned from concerns about additional congestion, to fire safety and resistance to new development.
The commission unanimously approved the development through the first hoop it needs to go through in order to become a reality.
The commission’s approval of the initial PUD means two things: This exact plan – the number of houses and the way the lots are shaped – is set in stone. If they change key variables, they must start the process all over again. The builders now have more logistics work to do before turning dirt. Everything from linking up with Florida Power and Light to determining where light poles will go to water and sewer concerns will be planned for next.
The developer will then have to come back to the commission for final approval. Then they can begin construction.