Palm Beach County voters approve $200M affordable housing bond

Funding is aimed at subsidizing construction of 20K workforce units


Palm Beach County voters said yes to more housing, approving a $200 million bond for affordable units on Tuesday.

The bond, which will be paid for by property tax increases, is designed to subsidize the construction of 20,000 workforce housing units. The subsidy averages about $10,000 per unit.

Approval of the housing bond is a win for developers, many of which donated to the measure’s political action committee, Hometown Housing Trust. The PAC’s biggest supporters included Flagler System, The Bear’s Club Development Company and Pinnacle Communities, each of which donated $25,000, according to Transparency USA. Pinnacle is an affordable housing developer based in Miami.

Flyers sent to voters about the measure referenced the concerted support of private developers, who stand to gain far beyond the $200 million in project subsidies.

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The Housing Leadership Council of Palm Beach, a non-profit group that grew out of efforts to address housing affordability in the early 2000s, backed the referendum. HLC authored “Housing for All,” a housing action plan designed for Palm Beach County that has yet to be adopted by county commissioners. The passage of the bond is a key element of the “Housing for All” plan.

The referendum was added to the ballot after a Palm Beach County commission vote in June. Commissioners Maria Marino and Melissa McKinlay cast the only votes against sending the measure to voters, minutes from the meeting show. Marino represents District One in Palm Beach County, which includes some of the area’s most storied and wealthy enclaves, including Palm Beach and Jupiter. McKinlay, the commissioner for District Six, which includes Wellington, Royal Palm Beach, and Belle Glade, voted against putting the bond to the voters because not enough housing would be built in her district, the Palm Beach Post reported.

Palm Beach County has long been a playground for the wealthy, dating back to the early 20th century when Standard Oil barons built large, secluded Gilded Age estates. Not much changed in the century that followed, but an influx of out-of-state wealthy buyers prompted by the pandemic resulted in unprecedented price jumps. Billionaires have regularly broken price records in the county, and overall home prices have spiked 20.7 percent over three years, according to Redfin.

The push to establish the financial industry’s Wall Street South in West Palm Beach has sustained the momentum, resulting in a long-brewing, but now acute, affordability crisis. The “Housing for All” plan outlines a 10-year timeline for building 20,000 affordable units.