Part of being pro-development and pro-growth is understanding that perfect is the enemy of good. This new multi-family project adds 200 units of much-needed new housing, but I don’t like the exterior paint palette on the façade or the awning design. It’s understanding that 200 new units of housing, even without the perfect color scheme, is much better than no new housing at all. In practice, this means supporting a bunch of imperfect projects that nevertheless contribute to local growth and prosperity against a wide range of opposition.
Writing in The Jaxson, Bill Delaney applies this concept to new luxury multi-family apartments in Jacksonville’s Urban Core. Using local data and examples, he makes a persuasive case for the value of new housing units, imperfect as it may be, by looking at the center of Jacksonville’s luxury apartment boom, Brooklyn:
According to data from Rent Cafe, average rent in Brooklyn is now $1610 a month, pretty steep for a city where the average rent is $1454 a month. Luxury apartments routinely rent for $2000 a month or more. But how does it compare to nearby neighborhoods?
Just up the street, Riverside is characterized by a mix of architecture ranging from single-family homes to apartments and plenty of missing middle housing in between. One of Jacksonville’s most dynamic neighborhoods, in the 1960s Riverside’s affordable prices made the neighborhood an enclave for bohemians, musicians and the LGBTQ community. While Riverside has seen substantially less new construction, let alone luxury apartments, than Brooklyn, its prices are also climbing. Today, the average rent is $1493, above the city average and around $100 a month cheaper than Brooklyn. Other formerly more affordable neighborhoods in the area like Murray Hill and Lake Shore are also seeing their rents climb.
In other words, prices are spiking in these desirable neighborhoods regardless of the presence of “luxury” apartments. This is because “luxury,” in the sense used by developers and realtors, is just a marketing term with no fixed meaning. In the Vista Brooklyn development, for instance, “luxury” can mean a palatial $2700/month suite or a $1500/month studio apartment – both are available in the same complex, as are others that are within reach of many Jacksonville families. Meanwhile, in San Marco, the “luxury” Barlow Apartments and San Marco Promenade feature some of the least expensive rents to be found anywhere in increasingly pricy San Marco.
These apartments are nice, to be sure, but functionally they aren’t much different than others you can find at various price points across Jacksonville. At the end of the day, the price is dictated by what people are willing to pay for the apartment, not its ostensible luxuriousness.
Being pro-development doesn’t mean supporting every new proposal out there. It means learning that perfection comes at a cost (see: housing crisis). It means knowing that good enough now is better than maybe better later, and certainly none at all ever.