A coalition was formed to address Southwest Florida’s housing crisis.
Bright Community Trust will coordinate the Collaboratory’s efforts to bring groups together to address this issue in five borough areas – Lee, Hendry, Glades, Collier and Charlotte boroughs.
The initiative began after Collaboratory, a Fort Myers-based non-profit organization, issued a call for contributions and 30 to 40 organizations recognized the need and expressed a desire to get involved in the solution.
“The first step for Bright Community Trust will be to invite these organizations together and explore the definition of a coalition,” said Terry Mazany, Chief Collaboratory Officer for Collaboratory. “How would it be organized according to the priority of the region that this happened before Hurricane Ian and it was already a housing shortage? The real estate crisis is now 100-fold. The urgency and severity of the housing problems are even greater.”
The effort has been in the works for some time.
“We have been in discussions with the Collaboratory for a number of years about establishing a regional housing initiative,” said Frank Wells, President of the Bright Community Trust. “Due to the pandemic, we had to put this idea on hold for a while. Four, five, six months ago we got back to talking. Housing issues have become increasingly difficult.”
Mazany said this is part of the Collaboratory’s commitment to coordinating and solving the region’s social problems. An information call was issued last spring to see where the interest is. Housing construction has reached its peak.
“Bright has experience and work with this type of organization around housing solutions in the region north of us but in Florida in general,” Mazany said.
Mazany said he believes two things are needed: an immediate fix and a long-term fix.
“We’re not going to say we will have housing units to fill the post-hurricane gap in 30 days, but we do recognize that we need to show the community that there are solutions for new housing opportunities that are emerging from the ground.” At the same time, he is aware that it is a realistic long-term horizon of three to five years that will bring significant progress,” he said.
Given these opportunities in troubled times, Mazany said they are looking at the tangles where everything is connected. When considering housing, there are also questions about construction costs, land availability, insurance, as well as the market itself and the location of the housing in relation to needs and transportation.
The Collaboratory has already identified employers who have stated that there must be affordable housing for workers.
Mazany said it was built to a higher standard for a durable structure that could withstand hurricane-force winds and weather.
“The people we work with in the Collaboratory agree that we don’t want to go through this level of devastation again. How do we help build to new standards? Most building standards and building codes are already on the books. How do we make them affordable? Strengthen them?” Mazany asked.
There will likely be another hurricane, but the focus is not on people having to evacuate their homes in current numbers due to Hurricane Ian.
“It’s such fortunate timing that we are in the process of building this housing collaboration with organizations that are doing this work and have the knowledge, experience and community connections so that all voices around the table are heard,” said Mazany said. .
Mazany said one of the assumptions of joint efforts with coalitions is that they will be able to do things that individual organizations cannot. For example, Future Makers has more than 150 affiliates, which is the scale they need given the scale of the devastation in Southwest Florida.
“You will be able to provide resources that exceed the capabilities of any single organization,” he said of the collective, unified approach. “We will be able to demonstrate the need and means to act quickly to help people relocate and stay in our community so they are not displaced and have to leave to seek opportunities elsewhere. “
Wells said it will be a tall order, but there is much to bring to the conversation about how to ensure that housing recovery is truly recovery for everyone living in Southwest Florida. Conversations and planning will continue to evolve as they plan more resilient construction efforts for single residential or multi-family homes at the neighborhood, city, and regional levels.
The aim is to look at how they are being restructured to ensure options are available at every income level and life stage. Wells said they want to make sure the options are affordable, safe and well built.
“Based on our past recovery experience, the immediate response includes FEMA and emergency vouchers to keep people covered. The next step in short-term instant housing solutions is currently being tackled. It’s going to be one of the most important parts of recovery,” Wells said. “The next phase of work, getting the workforce back and making sure people can get back into their lives as much and as quickly as possible.”
The Bright Community Trust was formed in 2008 when it was discovered that money was being put into affordable housing at lower rents for people on lower incomes to ensure they had a good, safe and affordable place to live, only for a limited period of time There was time. Time when more money is put into them to exchange units.
Wells said they use the Community Land Trust model, which allows a developer to build on land by paying a small ground rent that could potentially be free. The land lease is 99 years.
“It’s a way of permanently increasing the available period,” he said. “We were involved in the construction of 17 apartment complexes that are rented below the market price. There is an 18 under construction in Orlando next year.”
A few years into her work, the same thing happened for the loan property opportunities available.
“You get a home at an affordable price in exchange for availability for another family. You can stay in the house for five years or for 35 years (it stays) an affordable resale for the next family,” he said. “We love this affordable tool. It is an affordable home sale or affordable home rental. It stays affordable forever.”
Bright Community Trust also helped with the Pandemic Emergency Program for access to food, neighborhood COVID testing and emergency rent funds.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to work with Collaboratory. They really do amazing work and the way they shape the approach to solving these problems is really ambitious. There are big challenges ahead, but I’m really looking forward to being part of the team working to solve them,” Wells said.