A housing proposal sponsored by Gainesville Commissioner Bryan Eastman has finished community input sessions and will head to the full City Commission next.
Eastman met with residents at Albert “Ray” Massey Park on Wednesday night to present the proposal and answer questions.
The proposal would change the city’s single-family zoning to allow homes on smaller lots. Currently, to build a single-family home, the city requires a minimum of 0.125 acres, but even that minimum only holds for less than 4% of city zoning.
Other residential zoning categories require more land. Eastman said that can leave smaller lots unused and also pushes developers to build fewer homes on more land. His proposal would combine the four residential single-family zoning categories into one category that has a minimum lot size of 0.08 acres.
The proposal was first included in a zoning and housing package passed by the previous City Commission in 2022. Citizens pushed against that zoning package—largely because it would allow multi-family development within previously zoning single-family neighborhoods—and the current set of commissioners repealed the package earlier this year.
In February, he advocated that the City Commission keep the minimum lot size parameters instead of repealing them with the rest of the package. But, the commission voted 4-3 for a full repeal.
Eastman said Wednesday that he thought the smaller lot requirements was one of the most important issues in the housing package. He also said he didn’t support grouping all housing reforms under a single ordinance, so he pulled out this issue to present to citizens.
The main goal would be to increase flexibility and add smaller homes to the overall supply, Eastman said. He said the smaller, and perhaps cheaper homes, would better suit young professionals and families along with older individuals.
However, Eastman said immediate impact might not be seen from the reform.
“I’m not trying to revolutionize the world,” Eastman said. “I’m not trying to throw the table up and say, ‘we’re going to change everything with this.’ It’s just trying to take one step into a direction of giving people a little more flexibility, a little more diversity.”
A home that burns down or gets damaged by a hurricane could, depending on acreage, split the lot below it and allow two homes in its place. The zoning would still require setbacks from the edge of the lot—20 feet in the front and back and five feet along the side—and have a density of 12 dwelling units per acre.
Residents had many questions that delved into deeds and covenants on their land, stormwater management and accessory dwelling units. Residents also asked if the city could allow smaller lots to split without changing the parameters for all single-family zoning.
Eastman said the zoning change wouldn’t alter covenants on the land, but he said it’ll give flexibility where allowed. He used his own home as an example. Built on only 0.16 acres, he said the home and lot size is only allowed in that least restrictive zoning category.
These starter homes are lacking when homes must have larger tracts of land that cost more and typically push developers to build more square feet, Eastman said.
Nationwide, Eastman pointed to AARP, Habitat for Humanity and President Joe Biden’s administration as groups pushing for smaller minimum lot sizes. Locally, the Alachua County Labor Union and the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors have supported the proposal.
Next, the proposal will go before the City Commission for preliminary approval, perhaps in December or January. Then, city staff will look over the proposal and present it to the City Plan Board. Following a City Plan Board vote, the City Commission will again take up the issue and vote to make the changes.