IMMOKALEE — A proposed housing project in Immokalee would provide 128 affordable apartments to farm workers.
On Monday, the Immokalee Fair Housing Alliance, which is planning the development, received a $2,500 grant from the Community Foundation of Collier County to help the idea become a reality. It joins nine other organizations, and more than 100 individual donors, in supporting the project.
Arol Buntzman is the co-founder of the Alliance. He said used to be a farm worker himself, and he knows first-hand what the housing conditions can be like.
“Sometimes it’s 2 families in one small trailer, where 12 people are sharing quarters that really weren’t built for more than 4," said Buntzman.
That’s why Buntzman has been working for the past two years to raise money from donations and grants to turn the 10-acre vacant lot, at the intersection of Lake Trafford Rd. and N 19th St., into Immokalee’s newest living community.
“There will be 8 2-story buildings, with 16 apartments in each building. Half of them will be 2-bedroom, half of them will be 3-bedroom," said Buntzman.
Buntzman said, the Alliance has received a lot of community support because it offers something other non-profits, like Habitat for Humanity, do not.
“There are many families that not only can’t meet Habitat’s requirements, but they can’t meet the requirements to live in Federally-funded housing, and so that leaves a major gap. We fill that gap," said Buntzman.
Buntzman said the project will cost around $18 million in total, and once finished, apartments will have rents as low as $585 a month. He says that's about half what regular 2-bedroom apartments are going for right now in Immokalee. That's why he says they expect a lot of demand.
“We’re building, in the first phase on this property, 128 units, and really there’s a need for more than 10 times that," said Buntzman.
Buntzman says the last thing they need is for County Commissioners to approve the project before they can begin construction. The proposal will be heard at the County Commission meeting on September 8th.