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S. Fla. officials prepare to help overwhelmed renters




Most South Florida renters are paying more for their homes than they can afford, studies show, spurring efforts to reduce the number of workers and seniors being priced out of the region’s housing market.

The lack of affordable housing is worse in South Florida than anywhere else in the country.

A Harvard University study said the area from Miami to West Palm Beach has the nation’s highest percentage of renters who are severely burdened by the rent they pay, with 36 percent spending more than half of their income on their homes. The region also has the highest percentage – 62 percent – spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

Solutions Broward County is considering ways to increase the stock of affordable apartments and homes including:

Creating an affordable housing trust fund to support projects that offer affordable rents or mortgages.
Allowing larger apartment complexes along major roads if developers agree to charge lower rents in them.
Buying available land that could be offered to developers who agree to build affordable housing.
Encouraging that defunct golf courses and big-box centers be transformed into projects that combine commercial space, offices and mixed-income residential units.
“There is no silver bullet here,” Commissioner Nan Rich said during an affordable housing workshop Tuesday. “Any and all of them have to be a part of solving the problem.”

Even with those efforts, it might not be enough if wages don’t rise.

Places like Washington, D.C., San Francisco or Honolulu might have higher rents than typical in South Florida, but the wages in those communities are also much higher, said Ralph Stone, executive director of Broward’s Housing Finance and Community Redevelopment Division.

The Coordinating Council of Broward, which prepared an affordable housing report, is recommending the county support an increase in the minimum wage and a Living Wage ordinance.

In Broward, research shows low-skilled and minimum-wage workers aren’t the only ones struggling to meet their rents or mortgages. Others include teachers, licensed practical nurses, carpenters, electricians, school social workers and many other professions. The high costs also are affecting the increasing number of baby boomers – the so-called Silver Tsunami – who are reaching retirement age with smaller incomes.

Broward’s current average rent is $1,858 a month, which would be considered a burden for a household earning less than $74,320 a year.

Owning a home is just as far out of reach for many workers. The 2017 median sale price was $340,000. That’s $145,000 higher than the typical family in the county would find affordable, officials said. The gap could grow even greater if inflation causes interest rates to rise.

Broward voters in November will be asked to create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund to support future projects. Broward commissioners this year have set aside $5 million for affordable housing projects and plan to add $5 million more in each of the next two years. After that, commissioners will consider supplementing the fund by using a portion of county tax money now going to municipal community redevelopment agencies as those 30-year agencies begin to expire starting in 2020.

Commissioners said they would want cities to contribute to an affordable housing fund or at least help pay for projects within their borders.

Commissioners also are interested in working with other Florida counties to have the state send the counties more money for affordable housing from a trust fund set up by the state in 1992. In recent years, the state has been using money from the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund to pay for other state expenses. One option under consideration is a constitutional amendment referendum petition – possibly for 2020 – that would require that trust fund money be used only for affordable housing.

The money comes from revenue generated by doc stamp taxes, which is the tax assessed on documents such as real estate titles. Over the past six years, Broward County has collected $87 million more for the trust fund than it has received back from the state, officials said.

Copyright © 2018 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Larry Barszewski. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




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