The builder is planning “hundreds” of workforce-priced units — apartments, condos and townhomes — on 45 acres at a former golf course at The Fountains, said Kevin Ratterree, Gl Homes’ vice president. The apartments would be rentals, and the townhomes and condos would be owned, he said.
Workforce-priced housing targets households with incomes ranging from 60 percent to 140 percent of area median income. The area median income in Palm Beach County in 2017 was $67,099 for a family of four, according to county documents.
The Sunrise-based developer spoke briefly about the project at Lake Worth and Jog roads during a meeting this week with the Palm Beach County Commission. That meeting, however, was focused on another GL Homes project.
The builder is asking for a land use change at the Boca Municipal Golf Course so it may build more homes there.
GL is proposing building up to 564 single-family homes at the 194-acre Boca golf course north of Glades Road just west of Florida’s Turnpike — outside of city limits.
Boca city officials have decided to sell the golf course, for at least $65 million. They haven’t closed on the deal yet.
The city has said it prefers another golf course, the one at the Boca Teeca condominium community, to serve as the new municipal course.
The fact that both The Fountains and Boca projects revolve around golf courses is no coincidence. Instead, it points to another trend in development: Lack of large pieces of empty land.
“There’s a scarcity of land for development in the urban, suburban area of Palm Beach County. You’ve got coupled with that a national trend as well as a very South Florida trend that golf course are starting to have financial difficulties,” Ratterree said.
The Fountains and Boca projects are also tied together because of the county’s workforce housing requirements for developers.
The county requires builders add in workforce housing to their projects, whether it be on the same site or elsewhere, or pay a fee to help address the need for housing for individuals earning middle and lower income levels.
The county is specifically requiring GL Homes to build 56 workforce priced units. Those will be among the total at The Fountains.
“It’s not just GL looking to address the Boca Municipal Golf Course, but also thinking ahead in terms of future projects and being able to bank units that are to be built that are already approved so we can offset that obligation with the Fountains project,” Ratterree said.
The land use change for the Boca property requires a comprehensive plan amendment to be reviewed by state’s Department of Economic Opportunity.
The majority of the Palm Beach County commissioners voted to initially support the plan. They’ll take a final vote in the fall.
Commissioner Paulette Burdick voted against the project citing issues with the number of workforce housing units to be provided and the location.
Burdick found fault with the Fountains site and preferred the workforce units be at the Boca development, which, she said, would give teachers who work at nearby schools an opportunity to live where they work. She also said GL should provide more than the 56 units, and residents should be given an opportunity to buy workforce-priced homes instead of renting.
Overall, she said, the outcome of the initial vote is not what “staff, our professional staff had recommended.”
For the single-family homes on the Boca golf course land, staff recommended that GL Homes have to build 10 percent workforce housing in single family homes or townhomes on site or 15 percent of the same off site.
In contrast, the county’s Planning Commission, with support of GL Homes, recommended 10 percent workforce housing onsite, offsite or a payment in lieu of building. That requirement didn’t include a specific housing type. The commissioners on Monday supported this option instead of what staff recommended.
Mayor Melissa McKinlay said workforce housing in any form — home ownership or rental — is needed.
“Home ownership is a wonderful goal but for a lot of folks it is not an option,” she said while speaking of the costs that go along with keeping up a home.