Residents in Collier County call on commissioners to fix the affordable housing crisis

Reporter: Jennifer Morejon Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

People of all backgrounds voiced their concerns on Tuesday about the out-of-control rents in Collier County. Commissioners are looking for a way to make Collier County a place where people can afford to live and work.

Nurses in their scrubs, young professionals in their work clothes, human resource managers from Collier County schools, local companies, and even the salvation army all joined together to deliver a single message; fix the affordable housing crisis.

“A working person, I never thought I would be forced to live under these circumstances,” one person told commissioners. “They’re depressed because they’re losing a place to live,” said another. “This will also hurt the upper-class residents that rely on our labor to live their more than comfortable life.”

The commissioners know rent averages $2,000 a month if you can find a place to rent. To buy a home with 10% down, people in Collier County have to earn nearly $130,000 a year. The cost of living is soaring.

“We have an emergent situation, so I don’t want to cross our fingers. I want to light a fire,” said Collier County Commissioner Rick LoCastro.

That fire will have to burn for a long time to help anyone. The commissioners had no answers for the people who need help right now. During Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners voted to move $20 million from the county’s one-cent infrastructure surtax into the housing trust fund. They hope to eventually spend that cash on land and new housing construction.

Commissioners also approved a special meeting that will bring all stakeholders, outside agencies and the community together to discuss ideas and possible solutions. A date for that meeting has not been set.

When that money is spent, “it’s really the most difficult. What do we do now to help these folks?” said Commissioner Penny Taylor.

Commissioners like Penny Taylor are open to ideas but are limited by the reality of the real estate market. The land is expensive, and so is construction, but the affordable housing committee plans to keep working on possible solutions.

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