Broward Commissioners Seek To Invest In Affordable Housing Programs

Oct 16, 2018

The majority of households in Broward County are cost-burdened. That means they’re paying more than 30 percent - in some cases more than 50 percent - of their monthly income on rent alone.  

And buying a house in Broward is more expensive than in other parts of South Florida. The median home price is $340,000, while the median income for a family of four is $64,100. 

"We're just plain bad," Commissioner Nan Rich said at a public workshop on Tuesday. "We have got to recognize that to make a dent in this problem we have to build units."

 

Looking towards solutions for the crisis, county commissioners discussed Tuesday how much money to invest into programs that build and sustain affordable housing. That includes using county tax money that is currently going towards Community Redevelopment Agencies, or CRAs, in 10 cities. Many of those programs will expire over the next several years. 

Commissioners came to a general consensus that they would like to put 50 percent of the tax money the county will get back when CRAs expire into a trust fund for affordable housing programs.

Voters will decide in November whether to pass an amendment to create that trust fund.

Read More: 24 Ballot Questions And Counting: Broward Official Warns Voters To Start Reviewing Issues Early

Commissioner Michael Udine said Tuesday he's supportive of the 50 percent towards affordable housing. But he thinks the county needs to raise wages.

“I think more of an incentive has to be made on better jobs, better paying jobs,” he said. “I think that’s the end that helps us solve this problem better…if we can’t get people paid better in this region, this problem is never going away.”

Medjhie Bissainthe is a customer service worker at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. She falls into the category of Broward residents who are “severely cost-burdened” -- she spends more than half her monthly income on rent.  

"The rent is too expensive...and besides the rent, I have electricity,” she said. “It is very frustrating for me.”

A study from The Harvard Joint Center For Housing Studies found a larger amount of Broward County residents to be severely cost-burdened than any other metro area in the U.S.

Read More: As Broward Population Ages, County Has Major Housing And Transportation Shortages

If voters approve the creation of the trust fund, excess tax money from the CRAs would go towards programs that offer loans for home repairs, developer incentives, and down-payment assistance for buyers. 

“I just feel like we are going to have to make that commitment,” Rich said. "And we have workforce, and we have seniors, and we have homeless, and we have special needs, and youth aging out of the foster care system. All of those populations are in desperate need of housing."

There is no obligation for the commission to put a specified amount of money into the trust fund each year. Already, the commission has approved setting aside $5 million per year for three years that will go toward only affordable housing. That sum could go into the trust fund if it is passed. 

If voters do not approve the creation of the trust fund, county commissioners will have to decide how else to store money for affordable housing developments and programs.