City Commission hears update on affordable housing, Community Resilience Plan, and honors local historian

Commissioners got status reports on affordable housing and the Community Resilience Plan, and voted to name part of Cascades Park after a local historian.
Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 7:29 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - During Wednesday’s City Commission meeting, Commissioners got status reports on affordable and workforce housing and the Community Resilience Plan. They also voted to name part of Cascades Park after a local historian.

Community Resilience Plan status report

City Commissioners got an annual update on the City’s Community Resilience Plan during Wednesday’s meeting.

The five year plan was adopted in 2019 to act as a response to any threat, from natural disasters, to cyber attacks, to public health emergencies such as a pandemic.

It contains four main goals and categories:

  • Public safety and preparedness
  • Hazard mitigation and climate adaptation
  • Equity and social cohesion
  • Planning and integration

The plan also has action items for each.

Abena Ojetayo, the City’s Director for Housing and Community Resilience, says the plan put Tallahassee in a better position to leverage federal resources during the pandemic.

“We were ahead of the curve when it was time to allocate American Rescue Plan Act dollars, CARES Act dollars, when COVID responsne was kicking in, we had a strategic document that gave us the framework on how to think about disasters and crises,” Ojetayo said.

One example of an action items from the plan is the creation of the Crisis Intervention Team, allowing mental health providers to join first responders on certain emergency calls.

The plan shows moderate to significant progress on multiple goals. The appendix includes progress bars for each action item as well.

Housing for essential employees

The Commission also heard an update on supporting essential workers with more affordable and workforce housing in the Tallahassee community.

The City’s agenda item says the pandemic has illustrated the critical role of certain professions, including teachers, nurses, police officers, and first responders.

Mayor Dailey said more housing is a priority for the City, and Commissioners are hoping to think creatively about the issue.

According to the agenda item, a study conducted by the Shimberg Center for Housing found that 19% of Leon County households are considered severely cost burdened.

The agenda item also says a wider variety of housing stock can create a better work/life balance, as well as help with talent retention and neighborhood stability.

“It’s important, it’s a quality of life issue to make sure that we have essential workers that live near where they work so they don’t have a long commute,” Dailey explained.

The City is hoping to partner with other local entities, including universities, Leon Schools, and local hospitals.

The agenda item includes a look at other programs. The City of Delray Beach offers an extra 50% density bonus for workforce housing developers, and an Atlanta developer is partnering with a local hospital for housing near a clinic for its employees.

The Affordable Housing Advisory Committee will present its annual report of recommendations in December, and there is a joint City County workshop scheduled for February of 2022.

Honoring Althemese Barnes

The City Commission unanimously voted to honor a pillar of the community during Wednesday’s meeting.

Commissioners voted to name the Smokey Hollow area of Cascades Park in honor of Althemese Barnes, now calling the area the “Althemese Pemberton Barnes Park at Smokey Hollow.”

Barnes founded the John G. Riley Center and Museum, the first community-based African American museum in Tallahassee.

Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox said Barnes did not ask for the renaming, but she has earned it.

“She is responsible, and you see her fingerprints all over Tallahassee and the State of Florida, and even nationally, because she did hold a national position under Obama administration in the area of museums,” Williams-Cox said.

“In 1997, she organized the Florida African American Heritage Preservation Network (FAAHPN), a professional museum association providing management training and consultation for African American and other museums doing significant programming focused on the history of the African Diaspora in the State of Florida,” the agenda item says.

You can read about Barnes’ many awards and accomplishments here.

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