The city of Gainesville is implementing an “Affordable Housing Property Donation Pilot Program” for nonprofits to develop new affordable housing.

The city of Gainesville is implementing an “Affordable Housing Property Donation Pilot” program for nonprofits to develop new affordable housing.

And, based on the pilot’s success, the program may be expanded to other city-owned vacant lots.

Phimetto D. Lewis, city of Gainesville housing program coordinator, and John Wachtel, city of Gainesville neighborhood planning coordinator, discussed the land donation program and the proposed housing action plan at an industry forum held last Wednesday at the GRU Multipurpose Room at 301 SE Fourth Ave.

Attended by about 45 nonprofit organizations , builders and community members, the forum provided an opportunity for the city to receive feedback prior to soliciting nonprofits to participate in the program.

Lewis discussed affordable housing recommendations and strategies to address challenges specific to Gainesville, including a shortage of affordable housing. She said 45 percent of the population has housing problems and 26 percent of the population is severely cost-burdened. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, cost-burdened families pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care.

Wachtel said the city will solicit proposals from nonprofits in order to donate and award the 12 parcels, which are zoned residential/conservation and located in the Duval neighborhood in northeast Gainesville.

The eligibility criteria includes nonprofits and 501c3 organizations that will build new affordable units, sell to low income households, are owner-occupied and meet housing program standards and occupied within two years of receiving the property.

During the forum, attendees shared concerns about the size of the parcels and questioned the feasibility of building on all 12 parcels.

Corey Harris, executive director of the Neighborhood Housing Development Corporation (NHDC) said the city needs to do some research to verify the parcels are able to have houses built on them.

“It will save you some headaches,” Harris said.

Pam Davis, executive director of the Gainesville Housing Authority, agreed with Harris that the city needs “to do due diligence.”

“We need to know what is possible, and we don’t have enough information.” Davis said. “Some of the parcels need to be combined to have building feasibility.”

Carla Lewis-Miles, CEO of the Greater Duval Neighborhood Association and coordinator of neighborhood revitalization for Alachua Habitat for Humanity, spoke about barriers to gentrification so communities can retain their character.

She said she has lived for about 30 years in the Duval neighborhood. She said the community does not want tall buildings. She said the community wants single family homes.

“The community should be reflective of the people who live there and businesses should offer things people in the neighborhood will use,” Lewis-Miles said.

She also said the program does not address racial equity.

“We should look at it through a racial equity lens,” Lewis-Miles said.

Kali Blount, a longtime local affordable housing advocate, also chimed in on the issue at the meeting.

“Economic segregation of housing has been going on for 144 years,” Blount said.