OUR POSITION: A possible amendment to the state constitution and more affordable housing in Punta Gorda gave middle class renters some hope this past week.
We hear that term all the time and although there are definitions of just what is affordable housing, it’s a moving target.
Too many times we hear developers talk about affordable housing when they actually mean market rate housing and the market rate now is sky-high.
But two news stories this past week gave us hope that those who make decisions are listening to people who can barely afford to live in Florida right now. Those would include service workers and middle-income earners such as law enforcement personnel, teachers, CNAs and, yes, journalists.
The good news on the local front is that a developer wants to build more affordable apartments in Punta Gorda than originally planned.
Verandas III, had long been approved for 56 multi-family, affordable apartment homes to be built in the city at 24420 Airport Road.
The Punta Gorda Housing Authority and development partner, Norstar Development USA, will ask the Punta Gorda City Council approve increasing those numbers to 80 apartments — a request that has already been approved by the city’s planning commission. It will take two readings before the developers can move forward with construction on the property, adjacent to Verandes I and II.
The new apartments will be marketed, but not limited, to seniors. The developer hopes, however, that families will find the new apartments affordable and to their liking.
We can’t see City Council denying the request considering the need in the area for cheaper rental units and the fact affordable housing is one of the few areas cited as deficient in a recent report by the Milken Institute. The institute in collaboration with the Center for Regional Economics issued the Best-Performing Cities 2021 Foundations for Growth and Recovery report.
The Punta Gorda Metropolitan Statistical Area (all of Charlotte County) ranked high but an area of concern was the lack of affordable housing.
All that could change if the Florida Realtors group has a say.
The group has invested $5 million to back a proposed amendment to the Florida constitution on the 2022 ballot that would guarantee the Legislature lives up to its responsibility to award money to affordable housing. The Florida Department of State has given an initial approval to the proposal by a political committee known as Floridians for Housing.
The proposed constitutional amendment would dedicate 25% of revenues from a documentary-stamp tax to affordable-housing programs.
We’ve written several times about the raiding of Sadowski funding by our state Legislature to balance the budget or to fund other projects. Sadowski funds were meant to only be used for affordable housing in Florida’s communities.
“Funds may be expended only to address affordable housing access and availability, including funding of programs addressing new construction, down payment and closing cost assistance, rehabilitation and financing for affordable housing development,” a ballot summary of the proposal says.
To get on the 2022 ballot, backers of the proposed constitutional amendment would have to submit 891,589 valid petition signatures by Feb. 1, 2022, and get approval of the proposed ballot wording from the Florida Supreme Court.
We like that the Realtors group is stepping up to spearhead this movement — a difficult task after the Legislature made it more difficult to amend the state constitution.
Maybe these developments will some day lead to real affordable housing.