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Developers looking for support to build affordable housing

Posted at 11:26 PM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-15 23:26:15-04

LEE COUNTY, FLA — Affordable housing. It's a term you've probably heard thrown around a lot and it came up several times during Tuesday's Lee County Commission meeting.

But what does it mean?

We asked local developer, Michael Allan, President of ReVital Development Group.

"It's typically 60 percent of the median area income or below," he said.

According to census data, in Lee County, that means this is housing that targets families bringing in $35,000 a year or less.

And according to the Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties, there's a growing need for it.

"We know there are currently 52-thousand households that pay more than 50-percent towards housing," said Alex Wilson, who works with the organization.

With housing costs going up, Wilson adds that it's a trend that's not sustainable for people who don't make a ton of money.

And yet in a time where affordable housing is desperately needed, experts say it's a struggle to get those projects off the ground.

"It's not getting better it's actually getting worse," said Marcus Goodson, the Lee County Housing Authority Executive Director.

Allan is part of a group that is working to develop a stretch of land in Cape Coral, into a 96-unit affordable housing complex. And he says one of the major roadblocks developers face is financing.

He adds that finding the space to build those kinds of developments is also getting harder in Southwest Florida.

"You're seeing land costs, really rising," he said.

But above all else, he says stigma can also kill an affordable housing project.

"Oftentimes, it's really quite honestly just due to not fully understanding the tenant base. Hearing affordable housing and just thinking they don't want it in their backyard," he said.

Allan says education is the key to fixing that issue and when it comes to tackling the others is support from the local government.

And it appears affordable housing developers got that at Tuesday's commission meeting.

Since many affordable housing developers need to apply for tax credits from the state to get their work started, county leaders voted to help at least one developer beef up their application for credit by offering to waive up to $50,000 in building permit fees and up to $500,000 interest-free loans

"Getting the local government on board is very important," said Allan.

The county will be taking applications so they can determine which developer they'll be supporting.

In the meantime, Allan's project off is projected to break ground this fall.