Sumter County signs off on plan that will allow for higher density housing

More apartments, condominiums and other multifamily housing may be on the way to Sumter County after the county commission Tuesday gave final approval to a comprehensive plan amendment allowing up to 24 housing units per acre.

The high-density residential land-use designation is intended to create more housing opportunities for service and retail sector employees needed to service the expansion of The Villages and other housing developments.

“There are a number of locations within the county where developers have expressed interest in higher density residential development which is currently unsupported by comprehensive plan policies,” Karl Holley, county development services director, wrote in an executive summary of the amendment.

Although nearly 50,000 new homes could be built in the Villages of Southern Oaks south of State Road 44, the county is lacking apartment and condominium projects and no new multifamily housing developments have been announced for over a year.

A market analysis presented last month by County Administrator Bradley Arnold found great potential for multifamily housing and he said there is “pent-up demand.” The study found that 3,000 new housing units are needed to support migration to Sumter County and half of the demand could be met by multifamily housing.

Under the plan amendment, high-density developments are restricted to urban areas where water and sewer services are available. They must have access to a major road and must be within a half mile of a state or federal highway.

Site plans for high-density developments must have at least three distinct uses, such as residential, commercial, office, industrial, public services, parks and open space.

Existing multifamily developments, such as Peppertree Apartments along U.S. 301 in Wildwood, have low vacancy rates, although rents in the county are lower than in Marion and Lake counties.

The amendment was reviewed favorably by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Multifamily housing has been one of the most profitable real estate sectors since the recession.

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