Affordable housing hard to find in Southwest Florida
By Josh Salman via Herald Tribune .com
More Southwest Florida families are struggling to afford basic housing, a trend that could cripple the economy’s long-term health.
A lack of affordable housing was exacerbated during the economic recovery by rapidly rising home prices and swelling apartment rents, at a time when worker wages have been shrinking.
But the problem has intensified even more than government officials projected just years ago — when home prices were still struggling to rebound from the prolonged economic crisis — creating a demand for affordable housing that far outweighs the existing supply.
Sarasota County planners have put together a new strategy to address the issue through task force committees and research. But critics fear the efforts come too late, given that the county allowed developers to skate on some of their affordable housing obligations.
Analysts say a lack of viable housing options could hamper the economy by driving service workers to areas that are more affordable, spurring labor shortages and eroding the middle-class. It also could contribute to Sarasota’s visible homeless problem.
“This is an extreme problem that needs to be addressed immediately,” said Jack McCabe, a Florida real estate consultant, who is working with municipalities in South Florida on affordable housing solutions. “It’s critical for the economy.”
“I can’t picture how anyone making $35,000 is able to afford rent, food, insurance and utilities in Sarasota.”