A housing crisis in America — and Central Florida in particular — forces lower-income households to struggle to pay for stable places to call home. Orlando, long considered an affordable housing market, has the nation’s greatest shortage of rentals for extremely low-income tenants.
To learn more about housing that people can afford, and solutions to increase the stock, the Sentinel Editorial Board enlisted Christopher King of Elevation Financial Group LLC, an Orlando-based multifamily housing investment company.
Q: What, exactly, is “affordable housing” Is there a standard definition?
A: In the United States, affordable housing is a term used to describe housing — either rental or owned — that is affordable relative to the income of the person or family living in it. The U.S. government regards housing costs at or below 30 percent of one’s income to be affordable. Studies have found that when a working family or fixed-income senior citizen is paying substantially more than 30 percent of their income in housing- related costs, a substantial hardship is created that affects their basic needs such as food, medical care or transportation.
Q: Many people might assume affordable housing is just for the poor. Who is served by it?
A: Affordable housing primarily serves low- and fixed-income families and senior citizens. Such families come from a wide range of professions, including police officers, teachers, nurses, security guards and hospitality workers.
Q: Does Central Florida have an adequate supply of affordable housing?
A: No. Central Florida is experiencing an unprecedented and historic crisis in its lack of housing for low-income, very low-income and extremely low-income families. For example, based on a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Orlando has one of the worst supplies of affordable housing in the entire nation, with only 15 affordable rental units available for every 100 extremely low-income renters.
Q: Does Florida have an adequate supply — or stock — of affordable housing?
A: No. Florida is fast becoming “unaffordable” for our fixed-income seniors, our law enforcement, our teachers and the community that serves our hospitality industry. According to the 2016 Home Matters report published by the Florida Housing Coalition, for every 100 low-income renter households in Florida:
•There are 23 affordable rental units available to households that are extremely low income (at or below 30 percent of the area median income).
•There are 36 affordable rental units available to households that are very low income (at or below 50 percent of the area median income).
•There are 84 affordable rental units available to households that are low income (at or below 80 percent of the area median income).
Further, between 1993 and 2012, Florida lost at least 51,000 units of privately owned, subsidized rental units from the affordable housing stock. It is estimated that a further 43,200 units have a medium to high risk of being lost by 2020, based on the age of the developments, the source of their subsides and the dates when the subsides will expire. These 43,200 units represent almost 20 percent of Florida’s affordable housing stock for our seniors and working families.
Q: How should Florida fix this problem What sort of leadership is required?
A: First, we need to see affordable housing as an economic-growth issue. If Florida becomes increasingly “unaffordable” for our teachers, our cops, our fixed-income seniors and our hospitality industry, then the workers and families who fuel the economic growth of this state will leave and our growth will grind to a halt.
Second, we must kill the raids on the affordable-housing trust funds. We need a governor who will veto them or a Legislature who will not ask for them.
Third, our next governor must be a leader and thinker on this issue. Other states are bringing the best minds in the private and public sector together to push innovation and entrepreneurship in the preservation of affordable housing. With 20 million citizens and growing, if Florida does not lead quickly on this issue, we will lag for a generation.
Read the complete interview as it appeared in the Orlando Sentinel on September 9, 2016