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An 86-year-old woman afraid of rent hikes found relief with an affordable housing program

Imagine being on a fixed income and being told your rent was increasing
Posted at 8:39 PM, Jun 05, 2024

We've seen firsthand how hard it is to find affordable housing right now.

And I’ve learned how you might qualify for government assistance through the journey of a senior who just a month ago thought she would lose her home because of rent increases.

The last several weeks have been a journey for Roz Finkenhoffer. We first brought you the 86-year-old's story last month.

She told me she's on a fixed income and couldn't keep up with her rent increases. "I thought this was going to be my forever home," says Roz Finkenhoffer. Now, I believe."

Finkenhoffer says she tried everything—even section eight vouchers—to keep her home, but the waiting list was three to five years. "Which is never open," says Finkenhoffer. "They tell you you have to go online practically every day. So, if you don't hit it at the right time, you don't get it. Now, here's the other thing that they do. If you can get on and you are accepted, you're placed on a waiting list."

She continued her journey to secure a home by applying for the Fort Myers Affordable Housing Trust Fund program in the first week of May, and by the end of the month, she was approved. It's always hard going online to do an application because it usually won't let you go through.

Finkenhoffer will continue living in her home with the help of city staff, her new landlord, and some of her family members.

"I would like to thank Alan Anderson who is in New Jersey, he has been affiliated with some of the Fort Myers city staff," says Finkenhoffer. "I also want to thank Mayor Kevin Anderson. Steve Belden. My pastor, Frank Brand, Reese Everly, Jeff Newton, my niece, Sharon Tenon Tovar, Mike Welsh, and my new landlord."

She says getting senior citizens help takes a village, but she is willing to share her knowledge with the seniors of Fort Myers who need the help. "I know what to do now," says Finkenhoffer. "I want to be an advocate for seniors on fixed incomes".

Your Fox 4 Fort Myers community correspondent Miyoshi Price went to the community development department to speak with the director, Steven Belden, about the rent assistance program Finkenhoffer got into. There's a great need for it, we've received over probably well over 1000 applicants," says Belden.

The Affordable Housing Trust program was created in January 2022. The rental assistance portion of the program really kicked off this year with 400,000 dollars from the city's trust.

Belden says many applicants are seniors and single mothers. We'll pay a portion of their rent directly to the landlord, and the program is set up," says Belden. So that will be for a one-year period. And then you can get additional two-year extensions."

He also says landlords are vital to the program. "We finally got them on board, and they're participating. We provide them with a 10% payment on top of the rents to incentivize the program," says Belden.

Beyond all the numbers are people like Finkenhoffer, who gets to stay in their homes. "I want to be able to help other people who are going through the same thing," says Finkenhoffer.