A lack of affordable housing impacts even people who can afford housing, because it drives up prices for goods and services, County Administrator Jerry Cameron said.
“Affordable housing isn’t just someplace that you can put a homeless person,” County Administrator Jerry Cameron told attendees at an Oct. 29 community forum on affordable housing, held at the Flagler County Association of Realtors building. “Affordable housing is something that affects our children when they graduate in school: They haven’t had a chance to develop human capital, they’re at the bottom of the pay scale in whatever profession, and if they’re going to stay in this community and grow and contribute to the economy, they have to have a place to live.”
Similarly, he said, older residents on fixed incomes can also struggle, and even residents who are able to afford local housing are impacted indirectly because high housing costs can drive up costs for other services.
"The folks that choose career paths that don’t have high pay schedules are essential to our community," he said. "If they can’t live in our community, we either have a situation where the services are not available, or we have to pay for their commute or have to pay for the increased housing costs for those folks."
Cameron provided some statistics: In Florida, about half of all residents fall into the category that the United Way has classified as “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.”
And even as unemployment rates fall, workers are still struggling: Low-wage jobs paying less than $20 per hour are 67% of jobs in the state.
“This is a problem that needs to be faced ... if we are going to maintain the community that we all want to live in and our children will be able to live in,” Cameron said. “I hope there is commitment, at least in your hearts, that we are going to address this problem.”
A panel discussion was moderated by Sandra Shank, of the county’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee.
Robert Beyrer, of the Flagler County Housing Authority, said subsidized housing has a waiting list in Flagler County, and there is a shortage of one- and two-bedroom apartment units.
Annamaria Abad, executive officer of the Flagler Home Builders Association, said fees make it difficult for builders to keep costs down.
“You’re paying $17,000 before you even put a concrete slab down … and that’s in your impact fees, permitting fees. $17,000. It’s a lot,” she said. "And we can actually be grateful, because in Volusia County they’re higher. ... But just add $17,000 to the price of any home."
Dr. Pamela Jackson-Smith, the Families in Transition district liaison for Flagler Schools, said there’s also a need for transitional housing for families with children and for unaccompanied minors, who often struggle to finish school because their housing situation is so unstable.
“We had 41 last year and right now we have 63 enrolled actively in our schools, and those are students who have nowhere to go,” she said. "...If we had a program like the one at Hope Place (in Volusia County) ... then they would more than likely be successful at completing their education."