There is a lack of affordable housing in the US and the crisis has only gotten worse since the start of the pandemic. In the midst of that and the stay-at-home mandates, it became clear not everyone has a home on a regular basis where they can feel safe. The cost of living is so high and minimum wage is low currently, there are limited to no options for people. Business Insider is one of the many outlets who reported that nowhere in the US can a minimum wage worker afford rent. The average minimum wage worker has to work two jobs to afford a two bedroom rental in any state.
A quote from phys.org reads, “According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies, nearly one in three households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Almost half of all renters are in that category, including more than ten million households that spend more than 50 percent of income on housing costs. Nearly 75 percent of poor renter households, earning less than $15,000 annually, spend more than half of their income on housing costs. Increasing numbers of wealthy households that live in expensive housing pay more than 30 percent of income for housing, too.” How does this affect quality of life? Everyone needs shelter, so families will pay almost everything they have to get a roof over their heads, in turn leaving how much for other goods, necessities, and medical?
Affordable housing affects everyone by some degree. Medical problems and homelessness that stem from unaffordable housing are very costly for the people experiencing them and for cities and places to pay for the services. It also affects society, in terms of lost potential and productivity. For those who aren’t experiencing housing problems, they can be impacted in other ways. If cost of living is high in an area, this will encourage others to search for and live in cheaper housing, this puts them farther from jobs. Then this can lead to longer commutes, road congestion, increased traffic, and higher pollution levels. A lack of affordable housing for low wage or entry level workers robs a community of a basic building block. If they have nowhere to live, then they will move to other cities where housing is affordable or wages are higher.
A quick google search will show you 35+ “affordable housing” complexes here in Hernando County, but upon further research you’ll come to find out there are restrictions tied with this. Out of this, around 28+ of these affordable housing complexes are for seniors only. Then there are less than ten section 8 housing complexes, which have been full since the start of the year. If you’re looking to settle down in a house, you can join the waitlist on the Hernando County Housing Authority website (section 8). A look at rental sites for Hernando County shows almost every single 55+ community has availability. But every non age restricted section 8 housing or those less than $1000 a month currently have waiting lists. To get on the Hernando County Housing Choice Voucher you must apply within a three day period once a year, the dates are listed on the website. Then, only 500 applicants will be chosen out of a lottery to receive assistance in paying rent; if they meet income requirements.
Housing developers receive incentives from the state specifically to build affordable housing for seniors, so it isn’t surprising to see such a gap between senior and non-age restricted affordable housing. The Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC) has a Housing Tax Credit program that provides both for-profit and nonprofit organizations with a dollar-for-dollar reduction in federal tax liability in exchange for providing equity financing for the rehabilitation or new construction of low and extremely low income rental housing units. A quote from their website reads, “Additionally, competitive 9 percent housing credits are sometimes reserved for affordable housing that addresses specific geographic or demographic needs, including the homeless, elderly, persons with special needs, the Florida Keys Area of Critical State Concern, or for disaster recovery efforts.”
A brief review of applications to the county for affordable housing loans shows that many of the developments requesting these loans are senior housing. In order to have a better chance of receiving the tax credits through FHFC, developers need support in the form of loans from the county or city where the property is located. The minimum loan amount is $20,000.
The developers of Promenade at Grande Park, an 80-unit development on US-19, just north of SR 50 in Weeki Wachee, explains in their project narrative (Sept. 27, 2016), “In support of our application, we are respectfully requesting support for the development of the proposed affordable senior apartments from the County in the form of a Local Government Contribution. This local contribution is a critical scoring factor in FHFC’s evaluation of applications for tax credit awards. Without the prescribed local contribution, the proposed development will not be successful in its application to FHFC for tax credits as FHFC requires a minimum $20,000 NPV local contribution in Hernando County in order to achieve the required application score.”
While several developers of multiple projects may request the county’s low interest loan at one time, FHFC can only approve one application per county for the tax credit funding.
In Oct. 2016, at least 7 out of 8 projects requesting county loan support were senior housing projects:
1. Beneficial Communities – Summit Senior Apartments
2. JPM Development -Promenade Park Senior Apartments
3. JPM Development-Promenade at Grande Park Senior Apartments
4. JPM Development -Grand Park Senior Apartments
5. Royal American Development-Enclave at Cortez Family Apartments
6. TVC Development -Jacob Heights Senior Apartments
7. Wendover Housing Partners -Crestfield Manor Senior Apartments
8. Wendover Housing Partners -Winchester Place Senior Apartments
There is constant construction for new affordable apartments, but for only a select part of Hernando County. There are those who are trying to live on their own and attend college here or start careers and families in this community.
In my personal experience, because every single apartment under $1K a month was full, I almost didn’t move back to Hernando County. When I was apartment searching, I was a server making only $30,000 a year and I got denied for “making too much money” for a household of two for the low income housing that was available. And the “low income rent” was $777, which is a lot of money (senior housing complexes are between $500-$750). On the other hand, I didn’t qualify for apartments between $900 and $1200 because I didn’t make enough money.
This is not saying that there should be less options for the seniors of Hernando County, but the community would also benefit from more options for young workers. These are the people that form the backbone of the local community as substitute teachers, store clerks, waitresses, etc. It is heartening to see recent funding and support for work training programs in the area, but those dollars are wasted if these workers cannot find local affordable housing. They may take their training, but will most likely opt to settle down elsewhere. I would expect the want for new people, talents, etc. But that isn’t going to happen if that crowd can’t afford to live here.