Experts: Jacksonville Has An Affordable Housing Shortage

Jan 10, 2019

It's getting harder for working families who earn $25,000 to $50,000 per year to find an affordable place to live in Florida. A growing population, stagnant wages and deep federal cuts have made the problem more prevalent.

According to a 2017 report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there is a deficit of more than 36,000 affordable housing units in Jacksonville.

A new study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council shows Jacksonville is one of the worst offenders when it comes to landlords providing enough rental units for low-income people.

Related: Government Shutdown Could Soon Impact Jacksonville's Low-Income Housing

Anne Ray is the manager of the Florida Housing Data Clearinghouse at University of Florida's Shimberg Center for Housing Studies.

In Ray's study of the renting market, she has found that in Jacksonville half of renters pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing. Since the year 2000 Duval has added 47,000 renter households. The rental market is focusing on luxury housing that rent anywhere from $1,2000 to $1,800 a month, which is unaffordable for renters making $12 an hour or less.

Jennifer, a local Jacksonville resident, called into Thursday's First Coast Connect and said, “I work a full-time job and so does my fiancé. We shouldn’t have to struggle to find affordable homes, but it seems every time we looked for an apartment, a one bedroom apartment would be over $1,000.”

Vestcor has put up affordable housing in the LaVilla area of Jacksonville. The company has plans to put more housing in the Brooklyn area as well. But Ray said those units aren't enough to meet Jacksonville's need for affordable housing.

With the partial government shutdown local housing authorities who rent units to people who have rental assistance, more commonly known as Section 8, are not receiving those payment vouchers and the renters may not be able to pay the rent, according to and Shannon Nazworth, President & CEO of Ability Housing of Ability Housing.

Ability Housing is trying to help out but if the government shutdown lasts too long then its reserves will be depleted. “That is when we will have to start negotiating with landlords and trying to find solutions,” Shannon explained, “they can’t go without their rent, they have a business to run.”

Section 8 assistance is not easy to get. On First Coast Connect, Ray described the clustering of section 8 recipients in one area of Jacksonville that shows the shortage of housing overall. “If occupancy is really high, then a landlord can say, ‘well I don’t want to deal with the voucher program,’” she said.

Ray, a Jacksonville landlord who called into First Coast Connect said, “I tried renting out to lower income people out on the Westside and I just gave up because the simple fact of the matter is you are not making that much money on the property and the tenant don’t take care of the stuff.” 

Anne Ray and Nazworth both agree that the best way to deal with this issue is to make more affordable housing that will give low-income families and landlords more options. 

The full interviews with Ray, Nazworth and the callers can be heard on Thursday's First Coast Connect.

Amanda Brannon can be reached at newsteam@wjct.org, 904-358-6317