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Finding affordable housing in Volusia a challenge

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With two new shelters opening over the next year or so, one for adults and one for families, the conversation is shifting to what the permanent housing solution will be for the thousands of struggling people in Volusia County.

DAYTONA BEACH — For the past couple of years, there’s been a lot of discussion about building a shelter to get people off the streets.

With two new shelters opening over the next year or so, one for adults and one for families, the conversation is shifting to what the permanent housing solution will be for the thousands of struggling people in Volusia County.

Finding affordable housing will continue to be a challenge in Volusia and Flagler counties, Fran Gordon, executive director of Mid-Florida Housing Partnership, told about 100 local business and nonprofit officials at a Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting Friday morning.

Gordon explained to the group at the LPGA International Golf Course how her 30-year-old nonprofit agency helps with everything from locating affordable housing to mortgage payment assistance to credit repair. Mid-Florida Housing Partnership also owns homes it rents out for $580-$750 per month.

The State Housing Initiatives Partnership, which most people know as SHIP, has helped 2,000 people locally with housing, Gordon said. SHIP provides funds to local governments to create and preserve affordable home ownership and multifamily housing. The program started in 1992 is funded through a fee charged on all real estate transactions in participating counties.

SHIP dollars can go for home down payments and closing costs, emergency repairs, new construction, home rehabilitation and impact fees. Gordon said the program helped a lot of people purchase homes anywhere they wanted. But some money sitting in the SHIP trust fund has been diverted by state officials for other purposes and funding for Volusia County has dwindled from $1.4 million to $350,000 annually, she said.

Additionally, it’s now harder than ever for people with little money and low credit scores to get loans in the wake of the mortgage fraud that went on before the housing market crashed a decade ago, Gordon said. Other bad news is that the housing inventory is limited, and what is available is out of reach for many local residents who rely on low-wage, service-sector jobs.

An affordable home purchase price for many locals is $120,000 or less, but there’s very little available in that price range, and what is offered at that level is usually in rough shape.

“Even moderate-income people are having trouble finding homes,” she said.

It’s recommended people don’t spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, so low-wage workers have few options. Many wind up renting and have to team up with a roommate or two to cover monthly rents around $1,000 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,200-$1,400 for a two-bedroom unit. It takes a wage of at least $20 per hour to afford those rates and not spend more than 30 percent of income on rent, she said.

“If you earn less than $9 per hour, there’s not a lot you can afford,” she said.

It would be better to give people subsidies to afford a mortgage that would be less expensive. And, if fewer people rented, that would drive rent prices down, Gordon said.

The number of Daytona Beach public housing units has decreased in recent decades, and some remaining affordable housing is in poor condition, she said. Ultimately, Volusia County needs more decent affordable housing. Some land has been set aside for building such housing, but so far the property is vacant, Gordon said.

Gordon added that so-called “tiny houses” could be a good stepping stone for homeless people. But she said she has “very mixed feelings” about the 100-bed First Step Shelter planned to open by the end of this year or next year.

“It lacks a goal,” she said. “I don’t like a program that doesn’t lead anywhere. I don’t want it to be a mini-prison.”

Mayor Derrick Henry said he wants city officials to make affordable housing top priority this year.

“We do have to figure out ways we can encourage more of it in our community,” Henry said at the Jan. 3 City Commission meeting. “I’m recognizing how dire the situation for housing is for many people in our community. We can’t simply say there’s nothing we can do.”

The city can partner with the Housing Authority, and encourage other cities in Volusia County to help meet the affordable housing demand as well, Henry said. City Manager Jim Chisholm said federal officials are scheduled to come to Daytona Beach soon to discuss housing needs in the city.

“We’ll talk about some alternatives in housing for the low- to moderate-income part of our community,” Chisholm said. “We don’t have any assurance that there’s a solution, but at least we have reached out and we do have the ears of those folks in Washington about trying to find money for a project here. We’re encouraged because they’re willing to come on their nickle and talk about the housing need.”

Source: on 2018-01-14 18:37:30

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