AFFORDABLE HOUSING HURRICANE IAN TURNS US UPSIDE DOWN
I’m writing this story exactly four weeks after the worst hurricane in history struck Southwest Florida. Unlike prior storms, when roofs everywhere were covered with blue tarps, this time we got to experience how much more damaging—even deadly—the wrath of a storm surge could be. In fact, we got to see the full fury of Mother Nature, who delivered this wall of seawater and mud at the height of high tide.
For a long time, I’ve been talking about the affordable housing crisis in Collier County. I’ve described the plight of 45,000 of our workers having to commute here daily from their homes, primarily in Lee County. This storm wiped out so many of these homes, leaving their occupants desperate and destroying billions of dollars in property while taking over a hundred lives.
Collier and Lee Counties now must rebuild. Apartments rented at climbing market rates are now in short supply, but developers are poised to move in with more $3,000–4000 and higher, monthly rental units.
What do we need to do to attract developers of affordable housing units for our teachers, nurses, and restaurant workers, and all the other essential workers who support our complex economy?
Is it finally time for our elected officials to make significant moves toward solving these problems? I wish I could report they’ve seen the light. While our shelters are overflowing with folks who have lost everything, it’s unclear what action might be taken which will provide some long-term future benefits.
In 2018 Collier voters approved a referendum that created a 1% surtax for five years. It is expected that $490 million will be raised, $20 million of which would be allocated to land purchases for workforce housing.
None of these funds have been spent—our county leadership has yet to approve procedures for its use. In 2019 $29 million was spent to purchase the Golden Gate Golf Course. Nearly half of this amount was contributed by three of our most important charitable foundations, in recognition of their perceived urgent need for affordable housing. A developer was selected to build 350-400 affordable units. To date not a single shovel has touched the ground.
Collier County has among the highest impact fees in the state. Its current “deferral program” for developers of affordable housing has been called “worthless” by these developers. The County’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee (“AHAC”) has urged for these rules be rewritten, to align the period of deferral with the time the properties will be maintained as affordable. To date this discussion has not been scheduled.
Other cities and counties in Florida are successfully building affordable housing. We can too, with the support of our county leaders.
A very important community forum has been scheduled for January 11, 2023 at 3:00pm—it’s free and open to the public. The sponsors are Greater Naples Leadership, Naples Community Hospital, the League of Women Voters, Collier Community Foundation and others. It’s going to be held at NCH’s Telford Auditorium. Speakers will include employers and employees from all of our business segments.
The affordable housing crisis is already affecting our quality of life. We all need to learn what’s in store for our future if nothing is done quickly to address these issues.
Details on how to attend are available at gnlwebsite.org.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING COMMUNITY FORUM
January 11, 2023 at 3:00pm I NCH’s Telford Auditorium I FREE and Open to the Public I Visit gnlwebsite.org for additional information
Sponsored by Greater Naples Leadership, Naples Community Hospital, the League of Women Voters, Collier Community Foundation and others. Speakers will include employers and employees from all of our business segments. The affordable housing crisis is already affecting our quality of life.
We all need to learn what’s in store for our future if nothing is done quickly to address these issues. What do we need to do. 431.5474
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