Could Affordable Housing Be on the Horizon?

By: Sabrina Zimring
By: Sabrina Zimring

For many middle-income workers, finding affordable housing in the panhandle is almost impossible.

Donna Fries of Panhandle Beach Realty says, "With the airport coming in and all the things happening it's raising the value to an excessive amount to where developers can't come in and build an affordable project."

An average person making $40,000 can't afford a home that costs more than $170,000.

Local realtors have only 63 Bay County homes listed below $200,000. Only one of those is on the beach. Housing advocates say the cost of land is the biggest problem.

"One of the bills that should be passed is to allow more grant money as an incentive to develop the build more affordable housing projects that these people can buy and give them money to build the houses at cheaper price because the cost of a building isn't just in the materials, it's in the land cost."

Some lawmakers have already made proposals ahead of the session that starts March 7t on of the proposals would ease restrictions on the placement of mobile home parks.

Lee Robertson of Sil's Manufactured Homes says, "I think the county should allow manufactured homes to be put in more areas. It seems like they have a lot of restriction. They talk about affordable housing, but it seems to me they block it at every chance they get.”

Not everyone agrees

"I'm not excited. One, I think they're dangerous. You and I know the damage a storm can do to a mobile home versus a home. Second, if you allow too many mobile homes it deters its own value to a certain extent."

Right now there are four major bills addressing affordable housing to be discussed in the upcoming legislative session.

Major bills addressing affordable housing:

• A bill that would revise several provisions of housing incentive programs run by the Florida Housing Finance Corp. The bill (SB1048) would also raise income limits under the Florida Home ownership program. The Florida Housing Finance programs were created to help low to moderate income workers, the disabled and the elderly find housing.

• A bill (SB1032) that would reduce requirements for sponsors of community housing for the elderly to receive funds through the state's Apartment Incentive Loan Program.

• A bill (HB835) to provide down payment assistance to some school employees through Florida Housing Finance Corp. The bill would also require communities to relocate residents displaced when mobile home parks are sold after zoning changes. It also would encourage cities to approve new mobile home parks to replace the rezoned ones.

• Two (SB1482 and HB 549) bills would let mobile home park residents' associations match offers from others who want to buy their parks.


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