We won’t presume to make any New Year’s resolutions for the city or the county, but there is an issue we hope will have gotten significant attention from them by the time we’re looking back at 2019: affordable housing.
There’s no shortage of places to live in the Venice area and more are popping up every day. What there’s a shortage of is housing for people to rent at a reasonable monthly rate.
According to ApartmentList.com, rents went up 1.9 percent in Venice last year, taking the median rent for a two-bedroom unit to $1,310, more than the national average of $1,180.
(The median rent is the amount at which half the units cost more and half cost less.)
A common rule of thumb is that your rent should be no more than 30 percent of your gross — pretax — income. Let’s do the math.
Rent of $1,310 equals a monthly income of $4,367, or $52,400 a year. We’ll call it $1,000 a week. Divide by 40 hours and it’s $25 an hour.
Florida’s minimum wage just went up to $8.46 an hour — barely more than one-third of the guideline amount, yet more than $1 higher than the national rate. Tipped employees get a minimum of $5.44 an hour.
Who makes $25 an hour? Not a lot of people. The person who mows your yard doesn’t. Nor does the person who cuts your hair, bags your groceries, serves you in a restaurant or checks you in at your doctor’s office.
We need those people. They need to be able to afford to live here in order to work here. Ask any employer.
Yes, there are some cheaper accommodations. But someone earning the minimum wage at a 40-hour-a-week job would have to find a place for $440 a month in order to stay within the 30 percent guideline.
Yes, a couple might have two incomes to go toward rent, or someone could get a second job or take in a roommate. Unless those incomes add up to $25 an hour, however, the median rent is still outside the 30 percent guideline.
And shouldn’t someone working full time be able to afford a decent place to live?
The few “workforce” housing projects that have been brought up wouldn’t make a difference for those renters, other than if they freed up some cheaper units.
Typically, they’re touted as charging “market” — think “median” — rent and are targeted toward teachers, police officers and the like who may start out at less than $52,400 a year but who have the potential to get there, or can make it easily with a spouse’s income thrown in.
That’s probably not your stylist or server.
A solution is going to require the alignment of lot of moving parts, a lot of money and more than just making housing a legislative priority — and often not a very high one.
The city of Venice has provisions in its comp plan to encourage the development of affordable housing, mainly through increased density on a site, but it hasn’t inspired any development.
Skeptics have called the proposals that have come forward Trojan horses, suggesting the developer is using the prospect of affordable rental units to get more density, with a plan to switch to higher-priced condos later. That can be safeguarded against.
Regardless, the city has no money to put into an affordable housing development and doesn’t consider creating any to be in its jurisdiction, other than by supporting the Venetian Walk complex.
The county does have some housing money but not enough to meet the need throughout the county. It’s been working on some projects but nothing in the Venice area is on the horizon.
And every year local governments watch helplessly as the state raids funds designated for housing projects to meet other needs.
Even if there were sufficient funds available, there would be the “not in my back yard” crowd to deal with.
But the lack of a simple solution doesn’t mean there isn’t one at all, just that everyone with a stake in the outcome needs to be a part of it.
While the people who need those affordable places to live are still here to use them.