Finding and keeping affordable housing in North Florida is a huge problem, and there is no easy fix. But more effort is needed to help Floridians with their quality of life, including Eastside residents in Jacksonville.
Housing is considered “affordable” if it takes less than 30 percent of a household’s total income. Nationwide nearly half of the 43 million renter households are housing cost-burdened, which means they're spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Nearly every major city has examples of a tragic history of public housing that continue to play out today, with people, neighborhood institutions and small businesses vacating neighborhoods when they are able, leaving behind working-poor families, seniors on fixed incomes, people with disabilities and those with criminal backgrounds.
Living in substandard conditions impacts the quality of life of thousands of people in Jacksonville.
This month, Katherine Lewin and David Bauerlein dug into issues related to affordable housing challenges in Jacksonville. Lewin spent about five months interviewing people and going through public records trying to understand why one building — Downtown East, formerly known as Franklin Arms — continues to have the same issues year after year, including reports of rodent and roach infestations, faulty appliances, mold and other damage. City inspectors have filed hundreds of case reports in the last five years, but none have resulted in fines, Lewin's reporting found.
Recently, the Times-Union hosted a Facebook Live event to talk further with two nonprofit housing advocate organizations making a difference on the Eastside by investing in people and properties.
Bauerlein wrote about different buildings, including Eastside Terrace and Eastside Gardens, two privately-owned complexes that get federal housing subsidies amidst tons of accusations of slumlord conditions.
This summer, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott joined Mayor Lenny Curry in signing a letter demanding that the U.S. Housing and Urban Development find a new owner for those apartments.
But more than a letter is needed. Both Eastside properties fared poorly in inspections this year by both HUD and the city's code enforcement division. Eastside Terrace's score of 6 out of 100 points was among the lowest in the country out of 16,000 privately-owned properties that get federal housing assistance, according to the letter.
Jacksonville is a market that hit a record-setting median average home price of $300,000 this past summer. We’re in a region that’s seen median home sales rise by about 15 percent in the first nine months of the year. That’s tough for most median-income households.
Too many local families are living at or below the area median income. People who are trying to raise families on $15 an hour wages might be able to manage as best as they can, but something such as an illness or car problem can set them back.
City Council member Reggie Gaffney expressed frustration to us about efforts to make a difference with so many systems stacked against you.
“We have a crisis with affordable housing in Jacksonville,” Gaffney said. “I don’t think that the federal government or the city of Jacksonville is doing enough to address the issue.”
Some positive things are happening. For instance, the city set aside $3 million this year from the American Rescue Plan to go toward a $20 million program coordinated by LiftJax, a nonprofit working in the Eastside neighborhood, to help with the repair and building of homes.
We applaud and encourage organizations, including LiftJax, Ability Housing of Northeast Florida, LISC, and Eastside Cultural Development Corp., to keep fighting for better quality of housing for local residents.
We encourage the city to do what it can — including enforcing fines for apartment owners that don't fix unsafe or unhealthy conditions quickly.
Source : https://www.jacksonville.com/story/opinion/2021/12/26/making-housing-affordable-jacksonville-has-more-priority/6461119001/712