By Savannah Kelley, WCTV

More taxpayer dollars could go toward affordable housing in Leon County.

Thursday night, members of the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency voted to allow Blueprint funds to be used for affordable housing. It represents a significant shift in the scope of the board, which was originally created to fund infrastructure projects like parks and roads.

City Commissioner Jack Porter made the motion to start a process that would allow the board to use infrastructure funds to purchase land and build mixed-income affordable rental housing.

It passed 8-4, with Mayor John Dailey and commissioners Brian Welch, Dianne Williams-Cox and Christian Caban voting no.

“I’m not going to provide false hope,” Dailey said at Thursday’s meeting. “I’m going to rip the band-aid off right now and state my position. I’m not in favor of this process.”

Dailey and others argue all of Blueprint’s infrastructure funds are tied up in existing projects. They said the only way to fund affordable housing would be to eliminate or cut back on Blueprint projects that have already been approved.

Those in support of the motion said it was worth looking into.

“I believe we have to be flexible,” said Carolyn Cummings, chair of the Leon County Commission. “And I believe we have to recognize when there is a dire need. There’s a dire human services need in our community.”

According to data from the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida, more than 11,000 Leon County households spent more than half of their income on rent and utilities in 2022.

Thursday’s decision was a big win for the Capital Area Justice Ministry, a group of congregations in Tallahassee that has spent months advocating for this change.

Dozens of members showed up to the Blueprint meeting and broke out in applause when the motion passed.

Reverend Sylvia Jones told WCTV Friday that the need for affordable housing in Tallahassee is overwhelming. While the vote gave her hope, she said there is still much more work to do.

“But they have to make that first step,” she said. “And we consider this a first step that was made. So, all of our folk, our congregants, all the folk that were there — they left there excited knowing that it’s not in vain.”

The process to allow Blueprint to fund affordable housing is lengthy. In addition to Thursday’s vote, it will require two public hearings, recommendations from three committees and a supermajority vote from the board.

View the original story here.