FLORIDA IS AMONG THE LEAST AFFORDABLE PLACES TO LIVE IN AMERICA
30 years ago, Democratic Florida Governor Lawton Chiles put in place the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund, dedicating a portion of all real estate sales to affordable housing.
In 2021 national Democrats enacted the American Rescue Act, that subsidized Americans’ ability to stay in their homes in the face of pandemic layoffs. They also proposed other subsidies to help the economic security of working families.
- In Florida, during the last 22+ years Republican-controlled Legislatures and Republican Governors raided that Affordable Housing Fund of over $2.5 billion, limiting affordable housing in Florida.
- Governor DeSantis refused to accept federal money meant to help address housing instability and homelessness across the state. His 2022-23 budget dedicated only a small amount for affordable housing and a recent session aided insurance companies but not homeowners. As a result, Floridians now pay three times the national average for property insurance.
- Florida politicians have taken millions of dollars donated by out-of-state developers and corporations and have failed to legislatively address skyrocketing housing prices.
- In Collier County, real estate developers financed certain Republican County Commissioner candidates, who in turn gave developers influence in our County government. Those candidates focused their campaigns on cultural issues, as a way to distract voters from their failure to enact any policies to create affordable housing for our workforce.
- Hard-working Floridians are edging toward homelessness as housing costs soar. Across SW Florida rent has increased 43-52%. In Naples rent now averages $2200 per month and Florida renters face the second-highest risk of eviction in the country.
According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, workforce housing is an issue affecting 81.1% of Floridians
Republicans have no plan to provide housing security to hard-working Americans
Workforce housing is a serious and escalating issue in Collier County. Housing affordability is NOT just an unemployed/low-income housing issue; it has become a serious and growing issue for our middle-income workforce, including first responders, hospitality and healthcare workers, teachers, and home/yard maintenance workers.
This issue has also become a critical problem for the business sector in Collier County as it has created worker shortages for most key employers and across most industries. Recent statistics indicate that some 40,000 people, 17.4% of the workforce of Collier County, commute daily from outside the county. Major hurricanes in 2017 and 2022, and periodic lowlands flooding, have further exacerbated the problem with much damage and destruction of affordable workforce housing.
In 2017 the Urban Land Institute (ULI) completed a comprehensive and thorough study on how best to address and fund the escalating Collier County affordability issue. Recommendations included both short and long term solutions. Yet to date, these recommendations have not been implemented or available funding has gone unused.
The Collier County Affordable Housing Advisory Committee has strongly urged available funds be used, but the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) has not responded. Instead, the BCC continues to support high end housing developers at the expense of any affordable housing solutions. Available funds include $20MM from a voter approved 2018 1% Sales Surtax referendum, as well as the statewide Sadowski Affordable Housing Act which now has over $360MM for statewide projects. These funds could immediately attract and help developers for workforce housing right here in Collier County.
A sample of additional important ULI suggestions included:
- Increasing the density from the capped 16 units per acre to 20-25 units per acre in certain areas.
- Creating local development codes to suit dorm-room-sized apartments in desirable, walkable neighborhoods.
- Increasing the deferral of annual impact fees from 10 years to 30 years.
- Providing housing opportunities in or close to commercial job centers.
Addressing workforce housing in the near term will help ease our workforce shortage, potentially help with traffic congestion, and ultimately demonstrate to the BCC and the community at large how affordable housing is beneficial for everyone in our community.