Many upcoming housing developments in the local area are considered "luxury" properties.
While planned housing units in Santa Rosa and Walton counties will provide shelter for "low-income" residents, various major housing developments being or about to be built in Okaloosa County apparently do not share that description.
Overall, at least two of the future developments in Okaloosa are anticipated to help provide needed housing for military members and their families.
The largest of the upcoming projects is expected to be a planned subdivision of up to 570 single-family houses southeast of Crestview, on property that once Adara Golf Course, formerly the Shoal River Country Club.
The 417-acre development site stands east of State Road 85 and between Shoal River Drive and Airmans Memorial Road. The County Commission recently approved a development agreement with Patriot Ridge LLC of Jacksonville for construction, along with upgrades to adjacent roads.
The price range of the subdivision’s interior-lot homes reportedly could be about $200,000 to $400,000.
"Relatively speaking, that’s what a lot of people consider affordable" while in no way approaching low-income/subsidized housing, county Growth Management Director Elliot Kampert said.
The subdivision will add needed housing necessary to accommodate continued growth at Eglin Air Force Base and Duke Field, Commissioner Nathan Boyles, whose district includes a part of the Crestview area, said in his recent newsletter.
Also, many of the tenants at the future, 228-unit Renaissance Santa Rosa Apartments development being built next to the Santa Rosa Mall in Mary Esther are anticipated to be military members.
The project will feature one-, two- and three-bedroom units and "be the Emerald Coast’s newest and most desirable luxury apartment community" according to a property description from the developer. Its first units could become available in late 2020.
Rental rates have not been finalized yet, but they’ll generally be in the $1,000 to $1,600 range, said Breck Kean, vice president of development for Rea Ventures Group of Atlanta.
The apartments represent a joint venture between Rea Ventures Group and the mall’s owner, New York City-based Radiant Partners.
"The most anticipated occupants will be military, either enlisted individuals or contractors working at Eglin and Hurlburt," Kean said. "We do anticipate some demand from the senior segment, but the majority of our tenants we anticipate being tied to the military."
Under the "affordable" housing definition by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, not more than 30% of household income should be spent on housing.
Families that pay more than 30% for housing are considered "cost burdened" and might have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care, according to HUD.
From 2011 to 2017 in Okaloosa County, the number of rental units that cost less than $800 dropped by 9% while the number of low-income renters — those with household incomes below $32,000 — rose by 8.4%., according to data from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.
In Destin, upcoming housing developments include The Charles, which will consist of up to 192 apartments north of U.S. Highway 98 and just east of Big Kahuna’s Water Park.
The Destin City Council in early November approved a major development order for The Charles, which will be developed by Core Property Capital of Atlanta.
Rental rates for The Charles were not available from city officials or the developer.
North of 98 Palms Boulevard and Winn-Dixie and just east of Main Street, construction continues on Vintage Destin, a 282-unit, "luxury" apartment community with one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Its first building is set to open in April.
Vintage Destin is being developed by Murfreesboro, Tennessee-based firm TDK.
"The average rent will be about $1,600 to $1,700 a month," said Ross Bradley, TDK’s vice president of development.
Tenants of Vintage Destin will include military members and represent a mixture of ages, from millennials to baby boomers, he said.
One of the newest single-family home developments in Destin is expected to be an 80- to 90-lot subdivision on a former nine-hole golf course at Indian Bayou Golf & Country Club, next to Destin Executive Airport.
Earlier this year, the agent representing club owner Indian Bayou Properties said the cost of the new lots will be similar to Indian Bayou’s existing ones. The last existing interior lot was sold last December for $170,000 and the last existing golf course lot was sold in October 2018 for $225,000.
The Destin market
Destin’s comprehensive plan serves as a blueprint for the city’s future growth.
The plan’s housing element includes the goal of emphasizing "the need for adequate quantities of housing for people employed within the city limits, along with the need for housing for the city’s permanent population to assure a sustainable civic vitality for the city."
When asked what the city is doing to help provide housing for its permanent population, city spokeswoman Catherine Card said Destin officials are focused on providing a full range of housing options for locals as well as tourists.
"The Community Development Department for the city of Destin, under the direction of City Council, has been focused on realigning the city’s current zoning map and future land use map in an effort to ensure the zoning districts within the city encourage smart, balanced growth and associated infrastructure in the city," Card said.
"For instance, recently in order to encourage a full range of single and multi-family living, as part of the realignment of the current zoning map and the future land use map the city has consolidated three residential, office, and institutional districts into one that emphasizes more long-term single and multi-family living and supported services."
The city’s high-end housing market, however, continues to prevent many people from living in Destin, said Anita Williams, president and broker of The Realty Firm Inc.
While her office is in Destin, Williams cannot afford to live there, so she lives in Fort Walton Beach. The Destin native is a member of the county Affordable Housing Advisory Committee.
"It’s still a seller’s market, in my opinion, but you have a different customer in Destin than Fort Walton Beach," Williams said. "Fort Walton Beach is driven by the military.
"In Destin, the residents include those who rent because they can’t afford to buy. Then you have the executives, and people wanting a second home, and a lot of retirees moving here from colder states. So it’s affordable for them, but not necessarily for other people.
"We need more affordable housing; we really, really do," she continued. "It needs to be a level playing field for everybody."
One challenge toward providing affordable housing in Destin is the shortage of land, which makes available property cost more, Williams said.
"Not everyone can afford to buy a lot for $170,000, plus the cost of the house," she said.
Those shut out include workers in the tourism/hospitality industry, which after the military is the area’s largest economic driver.
Many tourism/hospitality employees don’t live in Destin, Williams said. "They live in Fort Walton, Shalimar, Crestview and even DeFuniak Springs, and they drive.
"If they’re lucky enough to live in Destin, they were lucky enough to get a rental that isn’t a crazy amount per month; $1,200 a month is not unreasonable to live in Destin. But they get more bang for their buck if they live outside of Destin."
It’s difficult to give an across-the-board median home price for Destin, Williams said, because of its vastly different areas, including old/west Destin, new/east Destin and the Holiday Isle beach area.
Williams said the least-expensive house for sale in Destin as of Nov. 7 was a two-bedroom, one-bath, 727-square-foot cottage in west Destin. The asking price for the 42-year-old residence was $129,900.
Also, on Nov. 7, the cheapest 3BR/2B house for sale in Destin was a 1,500-square-foot home with a price of $244,900. This house also stands in west Destin.
The many exclusive communities of South Walton County, like Destin, offer little in the realm of what would be considered affordable housing, and as high-dollar development moves east toward the Bay County line it has also begun inching north into Freeport in central Walton County.
The growth of Freeport is a fairly recent phenomenon, spurred in part by the expansion of U.S. Highway 331, from two lanes to four. That project was completed in the Freeport area in 2017.
"We can’t afford to rent from Freeport south," said Tom Baker, director of the Walton County Housing Agency, which provides vouchers to help low income families afford rent. "And we’re watching the trend move up to us in DeFuniak Springs."
Baker said "average workforce housing" is becoming as difficult to find in central and southern Walton County as low income housing, and people are finding themselves spending a huge percentage of their paycheck on rent or a mortgage.
"That has taken away from their quality of life in a lot of ways," he said.
Some help is on the way for the 100 or so families Baker is presently attempting to find housing for. A multi-family development called 83 North is expected to open around Christmas time.
The 70 to 92-unit apartment complex, being built on the largest lot within a DeFuniak Springs opportunity zone, will offer an as yet undetermined number of units as subsidized housing.
Innovative Milton Low-Income Housing
Milton’s new planning director Jenny Cook is entertaining some future projects that sound creative.
Timshel Development Group plans to build workforce housing on Glover Lane in Milton in late spring.
Called Tranquility at Milton, it features 72 units in a three-story garden-style development. Of that total 36 are three bedroom and two bathroom and 36 are two bedroom and two bathroom. The housing includes a clubhouse, playground, picnic pavilions, pool and splash pad.
Although it sounds luxurious, federal and state financing provides 64 of the units to families who earn 60% of the area median income and eight units at 33% of the area media income.
Cook hopes other developers consider doing similar housing projects.
"This is the only one at this moment coming to fruition," Cook said.
Milton is also getting creative with its building codes, allowing tiny homes less than 900-square-feet in the city limits. Cook said it should be added to the city code by January.
"Tiny homes are another option for the city of Milton," Cook said.