BRADENTON, Fla. — The need for affordable housing in Manatee County is so bad, the county commission approved a developer’s plan to build a large complex on contaminated land.

“The problem with affordable housing is that the pace of wages aren't keeping up with the increases and the cost for housing, so you have a discrepancy there,” said Geri Lopez, director of redevelopment and economic opportunity for Manatee County. “In addition, you have the cost for construction and labor, [which] is also rising faster than what people can afford to pay."

The development will be called the Oaks at Lakeside and will sit along State Road 70. It will house 96 new workforce units made for people with a median income of $50,000 and less.

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“Just having affordable housing near where people work is going to be a huge benefit for the county,” said Lopez.

According to Shannon Herbon with the Department of Environmental Protection, the site was contaminated by run-off chemicals from a dry-cleaning business that sat adjacent to the site in the late 1980s.

As part of the agreement, the Housing Trust Group, which is the developer for the site, has remediated much of the contamination according to standards outlined by the DEP. 

Herbon said the developer has treated the groundwater for contamination, but will not be allowed to drill or use the groundwater supply for residents. The complex will have to use the city’s supply.

This is a big concern for those looking for housing they can afford.

"Everybody who moves in should be able to live there comfortably without the fear of that contamination coming back to haunt them later on,” said Madilyn Geiger, 18. "I looked into some apartments around here, but they're just completely out of my price range.”

The new complex will cost around $18 million to build. Herbon said the site is being monitored to make sure the groundwater contamination is not spreading.

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