PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Charlotte County commissioners spent Tuesday morning listening to potential solutions to Southwest Florida's affordable housing crisis. It detailed what needs to be done to keep up with supply and demand.
“The decision that we have to make in dealing with the housing crisis right now is to face and accept the reality of what’s happening in Charlotte County," said commissioner Stephen Deutsch.
In the presentation, it says Charlotte County needs close to 11,000 homes to keep up with projected demand. Of that number, a little more than 5,500 needs to be affordable housing units. This has to be done by 2025 to meet the expected needs.
However, these numbers are from 2018 when the housing crisis was not as dire.
Bill Truex, Charlotte County commissioner and chairman says one solution could come from some leftover American Rescue Plan Funds.
"If we want to look at doing more in the future, we can go ahead and acquire properties, if necessary or if we can identify some properties that we own currently that might work for it," Truex said. "Maybe we can put something forward in moving those projects forward as well.”
He believes high density, meaning bigger projects like apartment complexes, is the best solution. There are hurdles, like density caps.
"It’s difficult for us to build large projects and have the community champion that," said Carrie Walsh, director of the county's Human Services Department. "The need is there, but sometimes people are resistant to having those sort of developments in their neighborhoods.”
There are some projects in the pipeline now such as the Jakaranda and the Verandas in Punta Gorda.
"These are all in the works and will be coming on board. The issue is some of it takes time," Walsh explained.
Other solutions in the presentation suggest the Bachmann Tract proposal. It's a 600-unit apartment complex being presented to the Board in the next few months. The presentation also encouraged county commissioners to find more stable funding for the Housing Trust Fund and invest in Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU). They're like small cottages on a homeowner's property.
"You’re going to have a lot of people who are going to be fearful of it and I think if we can do this in certain areas, so as we develop, it’s already in those areas," Truex said.
They're typically anywhere from 500 to 750 sq. ft. and can work in a variety of ways. If someone owns a property, they can rent the ADU out with permit approval. They would have to follow specific codes and laws.
Deutsch did bring up some concerns on Tuesday, mentioning a possible public health issue and the quality of life in the community with the ADUs.
He did say the housing crisis is as challenge the Board needs to face.
It's not an overnight fix and Tuesday's presentation was purely informative.
"I don’t think the Board knows where they want to go yet," Truex. "I have a better idea of where I think we should go and I think ADUs are ok, but again, it’s a hard sell to a lot of people and we have a lot of deed restricted areas that it won’t work in."
Many commissioners echoed the same thing: they want to help solve the crisis.
“This is universal. Everyone should be able to have a home that is safe and that is attainable and affordable for them," Walsh said.