MANATEE -- In Manatee County, thousands of residents are paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing, a state housing expert told the Manatee County Commission on Tuesday.
"What I saw here, that I haven't seen in a lot of places, is you have cost-burden households across the board," said Anne Ray, Florida Housing Data Clearinghouse manager at the University of Florida Shimberg Center for Housing Studies. "A lot of places, the very lowest-income renters would be by far the largest of any single group in need. Here you have great need at the extremely low-income level. You have cost-burden households at that sort of moderate but still low-income level and you have households that have a cost burden above that low-income threshold."
The commission also heard from state housing experts and local nonprofit agencies about the housing situation in Manatee County. The three-and-a-half-hour work session was the third of the "All Things Housing"
series in which the commission hears about different aspects of housing as it works to develop possible solutions.
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"These are building blocks," Commissioner Robin DiSabatino said. "This board is really dedicated to stepping up, and we are going to look at other areas that are similar and what they've done. ... It's really just reinvesting in the community and just starting one block at a time, one street at a time."
While the supply of affordable housing across the state is low, supply in Manatee County is "extremely tight," Ray said.
"One solution to this affordable housing supply is to provide subsidized income-limited, rent-limited affordable housing," she said.
A lack of affordable housing, coupled with being extremely low income, are two primary characteristics of people who are homeless, said Susan Pourciau, Florida Housing Coalition director of homeless training and technical assistance.
As the only known cure for homelessness is affordable permanent housing, there has been a "move toward helping people get out of homelessness and move into permanent housing," Pourciau said.
"In order to do that, one has to have a place to move in to," she said. "Without a stock of affordable rental units in any community, the homelessness rates will continue to increase."
After hearing from state housing experts, some local nonprofit officials discussed challenges they face in terms of housing in Manatee County.
Laurel Lynch, CEO of Hope Family Services, said for the domestic violence survivors they serve, there is no stock in Manatee County and they don't make enough money to afford what does exist.
"I don't think any one Band-Aid is going to fix this much bigger issue," Lynch said. "I think we have to attack it from multiple sources. Rapid rehousing model is absolutely the start but you have to have the stock to rapidly rehouse them."
Without a living wage, people can't afford to live on what they make here, said Avery Burke with Centerstone.
"It's not going to be one way," Burke said of solving the problem. "It still has to be a rent that people can afford. We have so much housing here but we can't afford it."
Commissioner Betsy Benac said it's great to hear about the resources in Manatee County.
"We are really going to have to work with our partners to figure this out," she said. "It's not going to be easy."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.