Barbara Fradkin – FLORIDA TODAY
Q: Where can I find an affordable apartment?
A: 35% of Floridians are renters. Every day, I hear from seniors desperate to find an affordable place to live. The news is not good: There is a shortfall of over 344,000 affordable homes for lower-income Floridians. Even before COVID-19, two million lower-income Florida households were considered “housing unstable.” As the pandemic raged and people relocated to Florida in droves, housing prices shot up. Now, home prices are high and rents are high. So high, that Realtor.com just declared Florida’s metro areas the least affordable in the nation! Landlords are hiking rents or selling properties for big profits. And renters caught in the middle are scrambling to find a decent, affordable place to live.
In Brevard, all 117 emergency housing vouchers supplied by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development have been distributed. The Section 8 (rent subsidy) voucher waitlist is closed. Meanwhile, our rental prices are 42% over what tenants can afford –even with vouchers.
There is no centralized application system for those seeking low income apartments. Individuals must apply at the apartment complex and meet the criteria for low income. A successful background check results in a wait of 18 months or more for an apartment.
Brevard County’s Housing and Human Services Department offers in-person guidance for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program — at the Eau Gallie Public Library and the Franklin DeGroodt Memorial Library in Palm Bay. Brevard 211 can also help finding housing or financial assistance. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to see if you qualify for future emergency housing vouchers.
The Housing Authority of Brevard County is working to find solutions. Advocates have recently formed faith-based Just 1 Housing (www.just1housing.com) to aid the fight. They see the construction of affordable housing inventory as key to the success of their program, which has benefits for those who become landlords. According to the Housing Authority’s Betsy Farmer, “If every church would participate with just one house or apartment, there could be enough to make a significant mark on Brevard’s senior homeless population.”
The Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund (from real estate document stamp taxes) is Florida’s only dedicated revenue source for affordable housing programs. However, the Florida Apartment Association’s Affordable Housing Toolkit notes, “The legislature has ‘swept’ more than $2 billion from the trust fund to other areas of the budget in the last 15 years.”
The affordable housing crisis cannot be solved without the help of our community –and our elected officials. Our seniors (and all homeless) must have a safe place to lay their heads at night. Surely, we are better than this.
One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to askOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.
Barbara Fradkin is a Social Worker and a Certified Care Manager for One Senior Place in Viera.