Letter to the Editor: Community Solutions

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Since being elected first to the state house and then to the county commission, many people have asked me what can we do for the needy and in my last article I spoke about affordable housing and even a tiny homes village for veterans.

In this article, I would like to talk about community awareness of affordable / workforce housing issues.

The need for affordable / workforce housing is a well-known fact; the process that is required to get the housing isn’t. Also, you may be surprised by some groups of people that need affordable housing.

“Affordable” housing means that monthly rents or monthly mortgage payments including taxes and insurance do not exceed 30 percent of a household’s median annual gross income.

This means, if you earn $30,000 a year, and pay rent or a mortgage of $850 monthly you are exceeding 30% of median annual gross income. The state’s goal – and ours – is to ensure that those individuals who must pay too much of their income on housing can find housing that is affordable.

There are people of all ages and backgrounds that find themselves needing affordable housing.

One group of people are those who have had various life challenges that can leave some people with a greater need for affordable housing, but with less of a chance to acquire it.  Such challenges might include divorce, parenting issues, disability, low-paying jobs, even repaying student loans.

A group of people who may need help finding affordable housing is those who work, but at a low-paying job.  One friend I made since I retired back to Citrus County was a young mother whose children were in a youth program I was involved with, she wanted her kids to have additional tools for success and felt this program would help.

She was a divorcee who married right out of school, and became a stay at home mother.  After many years of being married, her husband left her and the children. This woman is a good person and only wanted to provide for her children, but never had a job and had no idea how to get started.

One day she came to me and said, “Jimmie I got a job, but it’s at McDonald’s”. She said it as if she should be embarrassed. I congratulated her and told her how very happy I was that she was on the right path.

Even though I was very proud of her, I knew she would struggle. With only a salary from McDonald’s, the chance that she was going to find housing that she and her kids could afford was very limited.

Another situation that often results in the need for affordable housing is the number of grandparents who must become the full-time guardian of their grandkids. These are retirees who planned to live on a modest income.  Now, however, they have additional expenses which impact them to the point of barely getting by.

Then there are the homeless. One category is homeless veterans who may find it difficult to adjust after service. One individual I know has PTSD, gets a minimum amount for the disability and because of the diagnosis is not legally allowed to work.

In these situations, and many others, you have people who are struggling to do the right thing and yet struggle to make it daily, much less have the ability to get ahead in their current situation.

The number of rental units available for a family are far fewer than you might think, with the growth of our economy it will continue to shrink.

The average rent in citrus is $950.00. With one person bringing in a salary of $30,000 and needing a three bedroom the rental units will be at the $950.00 as a low therefore would be around 58% of their income to just pay for the rent.

To purchase a home the average sales in Citrus County is $140,000, therefore, depending on the interest rate their mortgage would be around 650 plus taxes and insurance a month. Much more affordable, that also make them homeowners and would allow for deductibles.

However,  we need more housing like habitat that builds homes that are under the $140000. Purchase price that will allow for a lower %of this income to be used for housing, allowing them to live affordably.

This is a huge need here in citrus. We need to make housing more affordable, stats show that in our metro area being Homosassa is showing that here in citrus county 19% of our folks need rentals  the avg wage is 10.97 cents per hour, monthly rent that would be affordable in citrus county would be $570.00 a month (2 bedroom) but in order to keep it affordable they would need to work 1.3 full-time jobs to keep it which would still be 30% of their income to live.

How many young people in our service industry, construction trades or even entry-level jobs making between $8.00 to $10.00 an hour can afford any of the above?

How many grandparents who have left the workforce and are living on a restricted income are now trying to provide for feeding, clothing and other requirements for their grandkids?

The Businessinsider estimated that the average net worth of people under 35 is approximately $6,676. With CNBC reporting that 57 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts, and 39 percent have no savings at all.

Let me say that again, over ⅓ of all Americans have no savings at all!

As the cost of living in our community increases and with a limited number of available rental units, we find that the need for affordable / workforce housing is growing.

Yet the not-for-profits are working hard to provide the answer and even government has a hand in providing assistance in the area of affordable / workforce housing.

The reason for this article is because I truly believe that the people who are in need of this kind of housing have been overlooked in our past, because our idea of an average person is that they show up, work hard and just want to quietly live their lives.  However, as I have pointed out, more and more people show up, work hard and may still need help with affordable housing.

If we want to face an issue with the workforce that we can actually address, I feel it is my duty to help educate people.

In the future we will see improvements in our efforts to get more lands into the hands of not-for-profits who will help provide homes that are affordable.

So if you support the people who provide the services we need each and every day, or who built your home, then I hope you will help to insure we continue to focus on affordable / workforce housing by acknowledging the number of people who are doing their best, and yet need help in this area.

As usual this is a part of the conversation about issues in our community. Next, I’ll address how the process works as well as ways to improve the system.

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