Real Estate News for North Pinellas County

Archive for May, 2006

Who took “affordable” out of Affordable Housing?

Many people have benefited very nicely as property values in Pinellas County have moved upward. But higher values also cause problems, and people who live in inexpensive housing often pay the biggest penalty.

One example that we see in Pinellas County is what happens to mobile home parks — and to the people who live in them — as prices move upwards.

Some of the most affordable housing in this part of Florida can be found in mobile home parks. Many of these parks were founded more than 20 years ago, and some of them are considerably older than that. Many of them started operations when the surrounding land was little more than orange groves.

But as development has grown up around them, the land that these parks occupy has become more and more valuable. Many of those park owners come to realize that the most profitable path is to sell the parks to developers, who can turn them into commercial developments or even into enclaves for upscale homes.

Residents of these parks, who may have lived there for 20, 30 or even more years, have little recourse. They usually own their mobile homes, but they rent the land that they sit on. If a park owner decides to sell, there is usually little that the residents can do but move on. If they are lucky, they may be able to find a vacant lot in another park, and pay to have their mobile home moved. But empty lot spaces are rare, and many of the mobile homes are too old to be successfully and safely moved, anyway.

The latest example of all this locally is Lakeside Mobile Home Park, a 28-acre site that sites at the intersection of Gulf-To-Bay and Belcher Road in Clearwater. That is one of the busiest intersections in North Pinellas, with around 80,000 vehicles buzzing by on either of the two roads every day.

The owner of the park has notified its 200-plus residents that they must get out by the end of 2006. The landowners say they are not selling the land to nayone else, but they are also not saying at this point what their plans are for the site.

Whatever happens to Lakeside, the people who live there will have to go elsewhere. And they are not alone. Every year, more mobile home residents in Pinellas County learn that they will have to move. Some end up having to move to less developed (and less expensive) areas of Florida, because they have been pretty much priced out of Pinellas.

It’s a tough reality for residents, many of whom are elderly, retired and living on fixed incomes.

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Are lower taxes in Pasco County’s future?

pasaco-county-seal-pictureCould property taxes actually be headed down in Pasco County?

That’s the way it looks, even though most property owners have experienced recent tax increases as the value of their properties has gone up.

So why should property taxes be headed down? Because the county’s tax base has been headed steeply up, driven by the continuing upswing in development. All that new construction has resulted in a much more valuable tax base, up an estimated 27 percent in 2006 over 2005.

Mike Wells, the Pasco County tax appraiser, says the tax base was $19.9 billion in 2005, but will be an estimated $25.3 billion this year. That is the biggest one-year tax base increase ever recorded in the county.

When the tax base has grown in the past, county officials have responded by dropping the millage rate, and many of them are predicting that another drop in the tax rate should be coming up, thanks to the expanding tax base.

County officials say that if the millage rate is not dropped, the broadened tax base should generate an additional $87 million or more in new tax revenues.

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Strachan’s Ice Cream

I want to tell you about the “Local Partners” section of my web site, where you can go to read about good businesses in the North Pinellas area. But before I do, let me tell you about one of those good local businesses, Strachan’s Desserts. If you like ice cream and good desserts as much as I do, you’ll probably want to give them a try.

Back in 1999, Bill and Susan Strachan probably should have been thinking about retiring from their long-time corporate jobs. Bill worked for an airline, and Susan worked for a large insurance company.

But instead of thinking about leisure time, they were thinking about opening an ice cream and dessert business — something that they had been dreaming about for more than 15 years. So they quit their jobs, sold a lot of their assets, and sunk the money into a new business.

The Strachans admit that they didn’t know the first thing about running a business, and they knew just as much (or as little) about making ice cream. So they took courses, bought an ice cream maker, and starting experimenting in their suburban garage.

And then they opened Strachan’s Desserts on Alt. 19 at Tampa Road in Palm Harbor. The business didn’t make money for three years, but then things started moving in a good direction, and the company is doing very well today.

Besides making and selling desserts and ice cream, the Strachans also run a “school” on making ice cream and desserts as well as on running a dessert business. They say that no one was available to teach then the things they needed to know, so they offer their knowledge to people from around the country who may want to get into a similar business.

So try them out — it’s worth the trip.

Oh… I started out saying that I wanted to tell you about the “Local Partners” section of my web site.

Go to www.bethfrederick.com, scroll down on the front page almost all the way down at the bottom, and on the left side of the page you will see a little rectangular box with two hands shaking and the words “Local Partners.” Click on that, and you will find an entry for Strachan’s Ice Cream, as well as entries for other local businesses that we like and feel good about recommending.

If you have any favorite local businesses that you’d like to see featured, give me a call at 727-643-7100.

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