Jacksonville’s Ability Housing Gets $150k To Beef Up Staff, Double Housing Capacity

Feb 9, 2018

The Jacksonville nonprofit Ability Housing is getting $150,000 in extra help from a charitable fund to hire new staff and house more people.

Ability Housing is hoping to double its capacity within two years.

CEO Shannon Nazworth admitted Friday, Ability Housing’s aim is ambitious.

“We set some aggressive, but some realistic goals as to how many more housing units we can provide and we really think we can achieve 410 in the Jacksonville community by that time,” she said.

But getting there with such a small staff would be impossible, Nazworth said. The money the Jessie Ball duPont Fund is donating will go to hiring a search firm to find someone with legal expertise and lots of experience navigating the worlds of real estate and social work.

“We have accomplished an awful lot with very few people and we’re stretched as far as we can push our people. We need more experienced staff on our team,” she said.

Nazworth said the $150,000 from the duPont Fund will be stretched as far as it can.

“We’re really going to have to look outside this market to find somebody that’s eligible [and] bring them on board,” she said. “This will pay for their salary and benefits, as well as the search form and also augment some of the existing staff expenses we have.”

The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2017 report finds that 35 percent of Northeast Florida households are renters and someone making the minimum wage would have to work 75 hours a week to afford a modest one-bedroom rental at fair market rent. That calculation may  have changed somewhat following the state hiking the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour from $8.10.

Ability Housing manages around 400 housing units in Jacksonville, and another 100 are in progress. The nonprofit serves low-income people and those with disabilities.

Ryan Benk can be reached at rbenk@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @RyanMichaelBenk.