teacherSome 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.

studentsFlorida Polytechnic students may soon be in for an unpleasant surprise, vis-à-vis where they are to lay their hat since the school’s new dorm is unlikely to come through. This will force hundreds of such students to find accommodation off-campus in the new academic year. Currently the educational institution is in negotiations with a motel and apartment building in Lakeland to see if either of those options can provide a solution. If that deal does materialize, buses will be run between the housing and university, 10 miles each way.

But that is just the short-term solution. In the meantime, the Orlando UCF Downtown campus is intending to create around 4,070 construction jobs in its student housing building. GAI Consultants, Valencia College and UCF are together looking to build a downtown campus that would ultimately house up to 13,000 students and 1,900 employees by the year 2019, the study said. The 68-acre site known as Creative Village would feature: 3,890 structured parking spaces, 950 residential units and 550 units for student housing, the latter of which will be privately developed.

So it seems like that the solution for now is temporary and, in the future, Florida’s Poly students will be housed as necessary.

affordable-florida-rentalsGiven that homelessness figures are currently high in Florida, the work of the Florida Community Loan Fund (FCLF) is even more crucial. This has changed a lot since a year ago as today there is 58.7 percent more homeless in the region.

What the Fund is doing, is providing around 900 apartment units for low-income residents. Currently the fund has a Multifamily Preservation Program. This will be expanded in what it does into keeping rentals affordable for the future. As CEO of FCLF, Ignacio Esteban explained:

“There’s a significant number of low-income Floridians who are significantly cost hampered when it comes to finding affordable places to live. Part of what we are trying to do is make sure the existing stock available in Florida remains.”

The homeless figures are not surprising given the results from a 2013 Rental Market Study. Conducted by the University’s Shimberg Center for Housing Studies, this found that low-income renters in the region are paying over 40 percent of their total household income on housing. With such a fund, many of these may be able to find affordable housing now.

It may be true that condos in South Florida are going down the pan, but it’s certainly not the case for the area’s apartments.  Indeed, plans are in motion to erect over 4,000 rental apartments: two high rises in downtown Fort Lauderdale; around 400 apartments on Young Circle and a complex with about the same amount of units in Boca Raton, at the old Levitz shopping center.

What happened was, in response to when real estate was doing great in the area, many apartment buildings and complexes were made into condos.  But given that it seems like there is now a greater supply for tenants, apartment buildings are being constructed once again.  Today, lots of young professionals who are somewhat skeptical about entering the property purchasing market, are looking to rent apartments or are unable to afford the mortgages on the original homes they bought so need an alternative.

It seems that these days instead of buying big homes with tough mortgages, the trend is moving towards smaller places, that do not require a down payment, with less monthly payments and someone to take care of any problems in the property.  It is much less of a hassle than having to deal with it on your own and way cheaper.  And it’s certainly been a huge plus for the South Florida community vis-à-vis people looking for affordable housing.