Some years ago, an affordable housing trust fund was created to respond to the housing boom in Collier County. It was a great idea which ultimately “amounted to nothing” as was only in operation between 2005 and 2007, which was the when housing prices went through the roof. The program ended but there was $104,957.50 in funds that had not been claimed.
But it might now be time to put this back in place. Increasingly more families are being “priced out” of the region. Next month commissioners will be subject to a presentation about the trust fund (along with other possible initiatives) in the hope of finding a solution.
A solution is exactly what is needed right now, since, according to Commissioner Donna Fiala, Collier County was “one of the worst places hit in the entire country. There was no call for affordable housing. Developers and their attorneys were coming to us saying, 'Give that money back. We need it to invigorate the economy.'" This sentiment was echoed by Darlyn Estes, Director of Human Resources at Collier County’s Sheriff Office. She said, "We have some new hires from the other coast who are still driving over after working here a month. There doesn't seem to be any inventory of lower rent apartments available in Collier County." Indeed, at a starting salary of $40,000 what hope do they have of getting housing?
Since rent is escalating along with housing prices, it is crucial that this matter is dealt with soon. A kind of chicken-and-egg situation has also arisen given that if people cannot afford to live in the area they cannot afford to work in the area. And if the market is bad, schools will suffer because teaching positions simply do not pay the rent.
Affordable housing trust funds could really provide a big solution to all of this. They are already being operated in other parts of Florida (Manatee, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach) where middle- and lower-middle-class families have been assisted with their housing.