How we can take action on housing affordability
Sun Sentinel enewspaper
By: Charles Keys
VP of corporate social responsibility at Valley National Bank
Affordable housing continues to be a major crisis in South Florida: The cost to buy a home or even rent a one-bedroom apartment has climbed beyond the reach of residents who make the area’s average income.
As a community, it’s time that we take action to support those who are driving solutions around this key issue, with a focus on increasing the supply of attainable housing options.
For over two decades, the Florida Legislature has taken approximately $2.3billion from the Sadowski Fund, Florida’s affordable housing trust fund.That money, moved around to other parts of the state budget, was enough to have built nearly 177,000 new housing units. But even at its full levels, the Sadowski Fund only has enough money to assist with a relatively small number of new affordable housing projects around the state each year.
Federal tax credits are also difficult to get. For affordable housing developers, applying for these credits is like playing the lottery, because only a few lucky winners will get tax credits that can be sold to private investors or can help in raising private equity.
Where does this leave us, and is there anything that South Florida can do about the problem? The good news is there are a number of nonprofits and organizations that are making a positive impact by building affordable homes, educating lower-income populations on how to get housing, and providing clear paths to homeownership for underserved, first-time buyers.
Companies can drive support for these groups in a meaningful way if they make it a priority. At Valley Bank, our employees engage in several community events and programs, such as participating in home builds, leading classes for first-time homeowners, and teaching about budgeting and credit readiness.
As you think about how you can help, here are three local organizations that you should consider supporting:
Habitat for Humanity of Broward: The organization’s mission is to bring people together to build homes, communities and hope for those who are less fortunate. They build homes and help low-to-moderate-income homebuyers purchase a house through their homeownership program. Buyers receive education on the responsibilities of owning a home, get financial coaching and are given home-buying options that help enable success. Since 1983, they’ve built more than 500 affordable homes in Broward County with great support from sponsors and partners. To learn more about sponsoring home builds, volunteering or donating, you can visit their website, habitatbroward.org.
Broward Housing Solutions: This nonprofit provides quality housing opportunities for low-income or homeless people with mental illness. Currently, more than 400 residents live in affordable apartments that have been purchased by the organization through a variety of grants and funding sources, including forgivable loans. Almost 90% of the residents who get help were previously homeless and living around Broward County in shelters, cars, hotels or outdoor locations such as streets and under bridges. Consider making a tax-deductible gift and learning what your support can mean at browardhousingsolutions.org.
Community Partners of South Florida (CPSFL): CPSFL is working to addressPalm Beach County’s housing crisis by providing professional expertise, access to capital and financial sustainability for families facing social, emotional and financial adversity. They do this by providing classes on financial literacy and credit building taught by certified housing counselors. Consider signing up to join one of their committees or making a donation at cp-cto.org.
To improve our housing situation, we must take action as a community.Let’s all do our part to increase the supply of attainable housing. Through businesses’ support and individual actions, we can make South Florida a great place for all our residents, regardless of their income level.
Charles Keys is vice president of corporate social responsibility at ValleyNational Bank. He lives in Royal Palm Beach.