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Lake Worth Shuts Down Attempt to Let Homeowners Build “Granny Flats” in their Backyards

Lake Worth residents took advantage of almost 90 minutes in comments to express their views about the ADU proposal.
Sophia Cai
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Secondary houses called accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, will remain unlawful in Lake Worth City's single-family neighborhoods. The Lake Worth city commission voted 3-2 on Tuesday to dismiss a proposal to allow them following a heated round of public discussion.

Omari Hardy, the City Commissioner who first proposed the bill, suggested allowing more residents to build extra dwellings on their property would keep housing affordable and boost businesses, among other benefits. 

“I’m obviously disappointed that we not to move forward. If tall buildings are going to be unpopular and if small buildings are going to be unpopular too, then what’s going to happen in a city?” said Hardy. “I don’t know. This is going to be quite a challenge moving forward because we need tax base, we need more residents.”

Yet residents like Katie McGivern worry adding more units on a property opens the door to parking problems, overcrowding and crime. A petition protesting the proposed ordinance generated over 600 signatures. 

“My home was very expensive, and we’re already having some problems with sober homes,” said Mcgivern, who worries that sober homes and treatment facilities would exploit the proposed ordinance to expand their footprints in Lake Worth. “I just think single-family homes should be zoned single-family and they should stay that way.”

Housing advocates say that housing affordability will remain an issue to contend with. 

“[ADUs] are a little piece of this,” said Sammy Alzofon, of the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County. “What disappointed me the most is that there really isn’t not an awareness of the crisis in affordable housing. It’s incurring into the middle class. If you make $40,000 a year, you can’t afford to live here.” 

She said that with limited space left for development, Lake Worth Beach and other cities in South Florida will have to figure out another way to accommodate its growing population. 

This comes at a time when other cities are having similar conversations around zoning and the mounting crisis over affordable housing. Miami Beach is allowing homeowners to rent their accessory dwellings for six months at a time, and Broward County recently looked into a proposed land-use change supporting ADUs. Elsewhere around the country, the Minneapolis City Council voted to end single-family zoning across the city, and Oregon did the same just this month.

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Sophia is a rising junior at Princeton, majoring in politics and pursuing certificates in journalism and gender studies.