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Local groups advocating for Affordable Housing Trust Fund as Fort Myers City Council votes to have workshop

Posted at 10:58 PM, Aug 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-02 22:58:31-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Fort Myers is lacking enough affordable housing opportunities for low-income residents wanting to rent.

As a means to help, the city council have been looking at establishing an Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Those who are advocating for the funds think it might be too little too late.

“We have quite a bit of an inventory of apartments, but what can one afford?” said Johnny Streets, Council Person for the City of Fort Myers.

For the last two years, affordable housing has been an issue throughout Fort Myers.

“That’s what we need to work on is the so called lowest wages to bring them up so people can afford to have a decent and safe place to live," said Streets.

“I was discouraged and, once again, I was feeling like we were being delayed- and we feel like we’ve been for the last two years," said Carolyn Stanley, Executive Committee with Lee Interfaith For Empowerment.

Stanley is with Lee Interfaith For Empowerment- or LIFE. The group is currently working to have the city adopt an Affordable Housing Trust Fund to create $3 million of revenue to use each year. That would be used for housing for those making less than 60% of the area median income.

In Lee County, the area median income for a household of one is $47,000. One of the main issues Stanley says the council is refusing to let go of is having workforce housing included in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

“We feel it fits such a huge range of people that they’re trying to address," said Stanley. "The first people they’re going to address are the ones who are wealthy and then they’ll run out of funds and the people we feel are the most needy, and need it the most, won’t be addressed.”

During Monday night’s city council meeting, council voted to have a workshop meeting. The only issue- to groups like LIFE- is it’s not being done quickly enough.

Under the proposed trust fund, availability of apartments for residents at or below 50% of the area median income would go up. Those residents would pay no more than 30% of gross family income on housing. It would also be supported by local, dedicated, and sustainable funding. More than 700 communities across the nation have already adopted an affordable housing trust fund.

Said Stanley, “We’ve contacted other organizations and we’ve learned that this is a very viable tool for cities to use to address affordable housing.”