Housing For Young People Needed

Delray’s Community Land Trust is an innovative organization supported by the Delray CRA and others.

The headline was a grabber: Are You a Millennial Looking to Buy a Home? It Could Take Up to 32 Years.

Only 32% of the country’s largest generation (which consists of 75 million Americans) own homes. Those that do are flocking to interior markets, which tend to be cheaper and more cost-effective than most coastal markets. In our neck of the woods, that might mean the western fringes which creates sprawl and traffic as workers head east for jobs. But even out west, higher end homes seem to be the order of the day and many of the communities cater to the 55 and over crowd. Redfin recently reported that the 33446 area code (west of Delray)  is pacing the nation in price appreciation.


As the front line of millennials enter their mid-30s, financial security is not guaranteed. Instead, the generation is beleaguered with student loan debt (which exceeds car and credit card debt) and salaries that are 20% lower than what their baby boomer parents earned at the same age, according to a report by real estate research site Abodo.


The average net worth of a millennial is $10,090, or 56% less than what it was for baby boomers at the same point in life, according to Federal Reserve data.


Coupled with rising home prices, it could take decades for a millennial to be able to afford a down payment on a house in places like San Diego or San Francisco. This may be why more millennials live with their parents than any other generation in the last 130 years, according to Bisnow Media.

Millennials living in the country’s biggest cities, including New York City, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles are especially challenged.


The average millennial makes $40,500 per year. Using that average, were one to save 15% of her income each year, it would take just over 18 years to save enough for a 20% down payment on a home in Boston. It would take 32 years for a millennial to afford the average $112,000 down payment for a home in Los Angeles. And as the father of a few millennials who are gainfully employed (thank goodness) I have a hard time believing that even the most frugal and disciplined young person can save 15% of their income.

The picture in South Florida is not much different than some of the aforementioned hyper expensive markets.

I remember moving here when I was 22 and thinking that relative to New York and the Northeast, Florida was very affordable. My car insurance was lower, home prices were reasonable, there was no income tax and property taxes were much lower than my native Long Island. Even homeowners insurance was nominal at first—before changing after Hurricane Andrew.

Still, according to researchers at Abodo, Florida as a state remains much more affordable than other parts of the United States. It would take 5-10 years for millennials to save up.

Hence, the desire for developers to build apartments and the willingness of underwriters to finance deals. However, finding sites in built-out and expensive Boca and Delray is challenging. With land prices soaring, rental rents are also rising and the uncertain regulatory environment (costly, lengthy and torturous entitlement processes, toxic politics, NIMBYism and an aversion to density) make it even harder for millennials to strike out on their own.

Another headline in USA Today recently also grabbed me: Where Did All The Starter Homes Go?

The article cited a byzantine maze of zoning, environmental, safety and other requirements that has led to a 35% decrease in housing construction across the country from previous levels. According to economists cited by USA Today, the lack of supply has driven up home prices by 40% over the past five years.

Single family home construction suffers from a lack of available land and a lack of skilled construction workers, according to the National Association of Realtors. Banks are also tougher on borrowers as a result of the housing crash in 2008.

The perfect storm has led the National Association of Home Builders to sound the alarm. The NAHB says that from 2011 to 2016, regulatory costs to build the average house has increased from about $65,000 to $85,000 and now represent 25% of the cost of a home.

Of course, we need regulations as long as they are necessary, fairly priced and serve a public purpose.

Still, the inability of millennials to gain a foothold in our community should be pressing concern for public and private sector leaders.

It’s important for companies to be able to recruit workers in order for the economy to grow. Workers, young families, entrepreneurs and established companies look at housing prices, quality of life, quality of schools and cultural amenities before making a decision on where to put down roots.

Unfortunately, the word density has taken on a bad meaning. But, truth be told, density done well (i.e. properly designed for great buildings and public spaces) is essential for cities such as Boca Raton and Delray Beach. Compact and walkable development is better for the environment than traffic producing sprawl which serves the needs of cars over people. It also allows for young people to form households and become part of the community injecting needed ideas, life, energy, monies and volunteer hours which make cities work.

The recent changes to Delray’s land development regulations for the downtown core which capped density at 30 units to the acre, was a big mistake. It virtually guarantees that millennials—who seek walkable environments and don’t want to be car dependent—can’t live downtown. By limiting the supply, you jack up prices and we end up with an eastern core that’s shut off to all but the very wealthy.

The 2001 Downtown Master Plan, which did much to build on the 1990s Decade of Excellence, was a community wide education effort that encouraged well-designed projects versus a fixation on density numbers. We saw visual examples of ugly low density housing and also saw attractive higher density projects which have the added benefit of increasing your tax base while also adding residents who can support local businesses. That was the guiding rationale behind the push to add downtown housing. We wanted a sustainable, year-round downtown.

The other areas that make sense to add attainable housing for millennials and others is North and South Federal Highway, Congress Avenue and the “four corners” of Atlantic and Military, which has zoning allowing for a mix of uses. The four corners zoning—done over a decade ago—will become increasingly important as we see pressure on the retail landscape increase with big box chain stores being driven out of business by ecommerce.

Delray is ready to offer shopping center developers more options for their properties should they decide to invest and change course.

The best incentives are not monetary—which almost always leads to an arms race you can’t win with companies taking the money until a better offer comes along. Rather, the best incentives are zoning, a tough but fair and timely approval process that emphasizes design and good uses and enough density to give the next generation a chance to access your city.

We were always ahead of the curve—which is why Delray succeeded. It’s important we stay there or we will be left behind. Right now, we’re losing ground.

Division or Collaboration It’s a Choice

We are at the point in the campaign for commission seats in Delray Beach where the word bully gets thrown around.

So this post is about bullying. And how to recognize who the real bullies are; because often bullies accuse others of being bullies when you stand up to them.

I’m not talking about the school yard kind, but adult bullying. Although there are similarities.

When I was a young man, I thought bullying was a pathology that ended in junior high.

Then I moved to Delray and got involved in local politics.

When you enter the arena, you can count on meeting the bullies in your town. I’m not talking about the normal back and forth of debate on the issues or about people who just don’t like what you’re peddling.

I’m talking about folks who wake up and decide to make you their hobby.

It’s usually not about policy or ideas—although occasionally how you vote on a single issue can trigger abuse. But more often, it’s personal; like in personal destruction.

I’ve encountered a few of these charmers in my adult life. And I’ve seen others experience them as well.

It comes with the territory.

If you want to avoid the bullies–don’t say anything and don’t do anything. Don’t support a candidate, don’t ever take a side on an issue or even be seen with anyone who does.

But if you do, you can count on somebody questioning your motives, your character, your friends, your livelihood and your ethics. Check that: they won’t question you they will judge you and convict you. And the rub is they often don’t know you.





It has nothing to do with likability or whether you’re a nice person.

For instance, even the Dalai Lama has detractors.

I strive to be a decent guy. I try to be polite and courteous. I pick up my share of checks and I love animals. I even recycle.

But I also have opinions. I like to express them. And the last time I checked, that’s still guaranteed by our First Amendment. Here’s a smattering of opinions that have earned me some wrath over the years.

I don’t get hives over festivals, my life isn’t ruined if the bridge goes up and I don’t see all developers as the local version of Freddy Krueger. Some yes, but not all. I have (or at least had) faith in our Land Development Regulations and I’m a believer in the long time community vision for Delray Beach. I was there when it was shaped by a wide range of local stakeholders who have given a great deal to Delray Beach and continue to serve the community.

Heck, I even have civic pride. (I even use the word heck not the pejorative alternative).

I think this community came together and did some amazing things over the years. I don’t believe that Delray was ruined, overdeveloped or in need of being taken back. In fact, I think it was saved by the very people who forged the vision and made it happen—and that includes developers, business people, neighborhood leaders, the CRA, the DDA, the Chamber of Commerce, festival producers, non-profit leaders, police officers, firefighters and city staff. It really does take a village.

That’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it. Sorry bullies, that’s just the way it is.

I also understand that not everybody embraces the same things that I do. I think that the strategy employed by Delray created a remarkable place and a whole lot of value and quality of life. I think it’s a sustainable strategy. But I understand that some of the changes and policies are not to everyone’s liking. The question is whether we can respectfully disagree. And that’s where we can find both the challenge and the opportunity.

Can you disagree with a bully and not be attacked? Or can we find a way to work together, find compromise and at times agree to disagree knowing there will be issues down the road where opponents on one issue can actually help each other?

Here’s why I prefer the latter to the bully model; which promotes division and dysfunction.

In my experience, the typical “my way or the highway” civic bully isn’t interested in getting to know you or hearing about the rule of law, the principles of economic development or what might make a city sustainable. In their closed minds, you’re wrong and you’re evil. See, it’s not about policy it’s about their need to discredit and bash you.

Many of the people I’ve seen bullied have reached out to those who have judged them in an effort to clear the air, find a way forward, listen to the grievances and answer questions. They seek common ground–after all we’re  neighbors and we might see each other at Caffe Luna Rosa or in the hot sauce aisle of Publix. But their entreaties are almost always rebuffed.


Because it’s easy to demonize someone you don’t know. It’s harder to hurl hate and lie about someone you’ve looked in the eye and learned something about.

You may find that they have kids, love animals, enjoy music, coach baseball and have a sense of humor. You may even figure out that they actually believe in what their selling and that they are not bought and paid for. But that narrative won’t work for the bully. If you are a real person it might make it harder to go back on social media and beat you up.

So while bullying and negativity seems to be a fact of life these days and some of it is so crazy and false as to be laughable–the toxicity it produces isn’t funny. In fact, it’s ruinous.

As I mentioned earlier, we’ve seen some amazing things happen here.

A dead downtown revived.

A land trust formed.

Have you seen the homes they’ve built? These are real families in real neighborhoods once neglected and now beginning to show some signs of improvement.

We’ve seen the southwest plan come to life. Oh, not all of it, but a great deal with more to come. (But only if we stop the endless bickering and get back to work).

We’ve seen schools conceived and built from the commitment shown at community meetings and the passion of two members of the Delray Beach Police Department.

We’ve see a cultural center rise from the ruins of a neglected old school.

And a library built on West Atlantic when a bully from my day told us it would never work if you put it “out there with those people.” I kid you not, that was actually said. We built it anyway. And he’s as miserable as ever.

He was told–politely–to pound sand. PS he’s still out there peddling hate, lies and conspiracy theories.

I can go on.

I’m a firm believer that many amazing things that occurred could not have happened today because the culture has become toxic. And toxicity is fatal to progress.

And friends, we had better start caring about culture.

Because It’s everything.

If it doesn’t get better –and trust me it needs help– the community is at risk.

So how bad is it? Here’s an example. There are many.

A few weeks back, a group of people came together and launched an effort to fight back against the nastiness and negativity by forming a group called Better Delray. Almost immediately it was assailed by a small group who questioned (sorry proclaimed) Better Delray’s motives, hidden agendas etc.

Really…they did. And they are so wrong. And they drew their conclusions based on what?


Nobody sat down and talked. There were no questions asked, but conclusions were drawn based on exactly nothing but personalities.

But there is a lightbulb going on around town. People are finally getting tired of the negativity, the endless fighting, the attempts to muzzle and intimidate. The fact that issues hang around for years because “leadership” is too busy fighting each other and majoring in the minor.

Thank goodness there’s an awakening taking place.

Because we need you to get angry.

We need you to understand the stakes.

We need you…

To call it out.

To demand civility.

To volunteer.

To vote.

Yes, vote. In a local election. Because it’s important and so few of us do. Less people show up these days than in 1990 despite a much larger population. So as we inch toward the March 14 election…

Seek out the positive–reject the toxic. Reject those who manufacture division.

I’ve noticed a few common themes in my 30 years here.

If you want to see progress…

Support those who go to work for this town. Put your faith and your trust in those who are involved over those who sit back and criticize and (mis) judge.

My best friends in Delray Beach are the men and women who have rolled up their sleeves and went to work on behalf of this community.

They’ve helped children, created jobs, supported the arts and charities, volunteered and put skin in the game, in short they’ve cared. Sometimes so much it hurts. A few are even developers…gasp.

But whenever I look around I never see the critics. I never see the bullies. They are AWOL.

When it comes time to pitch in, they are absent. When it comes time to build they can’t be found. But they are always there when it’s time to criticize. They are always ready to judge, condemn, label, divide and threaten. Always.

They never miss an opportunity and when necessary they create things to whine about.

None of them ever bother to get to know those who have been and are involved.

But somehow they know they’re dishonest, they know they’re self-serving, they know they are shills.

Only they’re not.

And we are not going away. It’s our town too.

Many are tired of the bickering, the disrespect of the people, events and organizations that built this town, the constant turnover of senior staff, the endless lawsuits, the insults of those looking to invest here, the lies about the CRA, the embarrassing behavior of so-called leaders, the bullying of event producers, the demonizing of people in recovery and those trying to help them and the lack of progress on important issues.

They were left a 40 point lead and they are blowing it. I’m willing to say it, because I love this city.

Call me a shill, label me, threaten my friends and our businesses.

But a great many who are involved in the major institutions in our town are dispirited. Many are scared and won’t speak out for fear of retribution.

They shouldn’t be. Something is seriously wrong if they are.

We must come together because we have been driven apart. By people who have not given back.

We must replace division with collaboration.

And that’s why I am  supporting Jim Chard for Seat 2 and Shirley Johnson for Seat 4.

And I’ll tell you why and what I see is at stake in my next post.