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Fort Myers City Council approves changes to Affordable Housing Trust Fund

affordable housing
Posted at 4:48 PM, Feb 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-05 19:32:32-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — On Monday night Fort Myers City Council decided to make some big changes to the city's affordable housing trust fund. The expansion will make more people eligible for the program, helping renters get into a place they can call home.

"I've just been having a tough time trying to find a place that fits within my budget," said Christina Staszak, who has been looking for a place to rent.

Fox 4 senior reporter Kaitlin Knapp last spoke with Staszak in June 2023 as she was dealing with the same issue. Since then, the rental prices have not dropped to fit her budget.

"You might see a couple places for $1,200 month and that's just like an efficient that is owned by someone else," she said.

The City of Fort Myers is looking to bridge the price gap with changes to the fund, which currently helps property owners lower rent for families to handle the cost.

"Anywhere from $1,000 to $1,200 a month is doable and that's preferably with utilities included," Staszak explained.

The changes include an increase to the area median income threshold from 100% to 120%. In other words, more people could soon be eligible for the program.

A family of four may earn $102,120 annually and qualify at 120%, while 80% is $85,120, according to the city's community development department.

"Wages aren't going up, but the cost of living and the overall price of rent is skyrocketing," Staszak said.

The community development department says they must also set aside 75% of funds for families making 80% or less of the area median income, if the change is made.

Another change comes down to money. It's intended to help people with rent, utilities, three months worth of back rent and move-in costs. This is something Staszak says is important to her.

"I've yet to find affordable housing because it's so hard to find something that doesn't require first , last and security and something is pet-friendly," she said.

Under the fund created in January 2022, a city spokesperson tells Fox 4 59 families have applied and been approved for part of the $4.3 million available.

"If I would qualify, I would definitely be interested in a program like this," Staszak said.

If she cannot find something, Staszak says she is considering moving out of the area, but emphasized her refusal to give up.

"I would definitely cry. I would just cry tears of joy being able to be out on my own, doing my own thing, my own place, my own space," she said.

The city wants to emphasize that this program is for people who live in Fort Myers, and city employees do not get preference.

To find out more about the fund, click here.