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City hires Ian Black to find affordable housing properties

The Sarasota real estate firm will scour the market for locations to help ease the housing crisis.

By Andrew Warfield | 2:00 p.m. March 22, 2023

The city of Sarasota has hired a real estate agent.

City commissioners on Monday unanimously approved entering into an exclusive buyer brokerage agreement with Ian Black Real Estate for the purpose of locating property within the city that could support affordable and attainable housing development.

The agreement has a six-month term from March 20 through Oct. 1, 2023. However, the city can cancel the agreement at any time with written notice to the broker. The broker’s compensation for a successful acquisition is 3% of the sales price, although the commission can be negotiated to be the seller's responsibility, as it typically is, in any transaction.

City Manager Marlon Brown told commissioners a brokerage service is a necessary step in the property procurement process because, “I don’t have the staff that has the ability to do that.” Brown developed the plan to hire a broker following the commission’s March 13 workshop on affordable housing.

The broker will receive no compensation outside of commission for any sale.

Currently working their way through the city’s legislative process are zoning text amendments to incentivize the inclusion of affordable and attainable housing in the four downtown zoning districts. Those will first be heard by the Planning Board, which will give its recommendation to the City Commission for consideration.

Once all that goes through, Brown indicated it would be important for the city to already be working toward identifying possible properties for development.

“All we are doing is engaging an individual to look for the property. If it's something that we cannot afford, obviously the commission can make that decision,” Brown said. “But if affordable housing and attainable housing is a priority of this community, including other governments and nonprofits, maybe we can partner with others to purchase a property. We know that attainable and affordable housing is a priority of this commission, so let's do that and then we can have an informed discussion about it.”

In February, Commissioner Erik Arroyo floated the idea of the city becoming involved in the quest to develop affordable and workforce housing. He suggested the city identify and acquire property, then contract development and management of rental communities. Proceeds could go into an account to fund future such projects.

Including affordable units in multifamily developments is purely voluntary for developers. Inclusions are designed to result in about 11.5% of an overall project priced for buyers and renters earning below 80%, 81%-100% and 101%-120% of the area median income.

The city is also seeking ways to build more such units more quickly. That’s where Brown said the brokerage relationship will be beneficial.

“Let's seriously find out if there's property out there that we can do this on,” he said.

“Let's put our money where our mouth is and do something.”

AUTHOR Andrew Warfield Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

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