Affordable housing is one of the most critical issues in the panhandle. Several local community leaders were gathering Monday for a special round table discussion to find a solution.
You can get affordable housing in Bay County, but it's really hard to find.
Lauren DeGeorge, Panama City Mayor, said, "There is an attempt at affordable housing, but it is not enough for the projected growth for our county once the real estate boom resumes. We're gonna need this in place if we're gonna want to recruit teachers, which there's a shortage of city/county workers, firemen, police."
That's why DeGeorge organized this meeting to share housing ideas.
"I'm hoping for a commitment, a report maybe in 30 days on the progress that we've made."
Low cost doesn't mean living in the slums. It can be apartment complexes that are safe and pretty pleasing to the eyes, but that's part of the problems. What is the definition of attainable, affordable and low-income housing?
Participants are working to all get on the same page. In the meantime many feel we're our own stumbling block.
Rick Dye with AmSouth Bank said, "There are some of these barriers to affordable housing that we're causing ourselves, through inaction, through just talking about it for two and a half years, from not challenging our professional staff for coming up with solutions."
Some suggested cutting lot sizes from 40 to 50 feet down to 30 feet, more loans programs for first-time buyers and reducing setback requirements, but all are pushing for a joint effort.
Bob Ginsburg, Mexico Beach Mayor, said, "You don't need each city to do the things on their own. You need a team of all the municipalities to come together and do the things that you address."
Mayor DeGeorge did not consult or invite the Panama City commissioners to the round table, but plans to brief them on the discussions.