by JOE TRACHTENBERG, Chair of Collier County’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee
As our snowbird neighbors begin their migrations south, the pressures of the affordable housing crisis in Collier County will become even more obvious to all. Inability to fill service positions in every field of business will result in universal reductions in the quality of services we have all come to expect. We’re going to be in for some big surprises. As I’m writing this, our rents continue to soar.
A recent national study lists Naples-Marco Island 2nd of all small cities in the United States, with a median monthly rent of $3250. That’s a 21.4% increase in one year.
Pressure is on every employer, large and small, to retain their workers and fill their openings. Wages continue to rise, creating higher prices on virtually everything.
Remember when the minimum wage was $8.65/hour in 2020? Employers who expressed fear of devastation at a $10 rate are now thrilled to hire at $15/hour.
Moorings Park Retirement Community, which has a workforce of 950 at its three retirement communities has struggled to fill its open positions, notwithstanding starting wage increases as much as 35%.
This story is being repeated at every restaurant, store, government office, medical facility—in fact there are no exceptions.
It wasn’t long ago when $30,000–$40,000 was a livable wage. There used to be apartments in our region available to rent for $1000/month. Today those apartments no longer exist. No wonder workers earning those wages are routinely leaving our county and state whether leases expire.
This also explains why post-Covid, our charities operating food pantries and distributions are feeding greater numbers than at the height of the pandemic. With rents reaching new records every month, the number of families who can no longer afford to buy food is heartbreaking and tragic.
Wages cannot keep pace with our increased housing costs. The only solution is for significant affordable housing to be built. One consultant recently advised Collier County is 10,000 units in arrears today!
While government is the last entity that should be in the housing business — they’ve failed all over our country — they are in the driver’s seat to attract developers. Some cities and counties in Florida have figured out what legislation is needed to accomplish this. We need to keep encouraging our elected leaders in Collier County to bring workforce housing here.
The consequences of not doing so are too painful to consider.