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Habitat for Humanity’s advocacy efforts are essential to expanding the supply and preservation of affordable homes. With 1 in 6 households in Florida spending over half their income on housing—Habitat alone cannot solve the problem. In order to educate and inform our community to prepare for the upcoming elections, Habitat asked all candidates to complete a questionnaire regarding their stance on the housing issues directly impacting them. The questionnaire is not meant to serve as an endorsement of/for any particular candidate and/or political party.

Recent polling published by the Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign indicates 76% of voters are likely to vote for a candidate that has a detailed plan for making housing more affordable. We hope that you will take this opportunity to review the questionnaires.


2020 Pasco Board of County Commission

Candidate Questionnaire

 

Name: Jessica Stempien

Candidate for Office: Pasco County Commission, District 3

 

District Issues
How would you characterize the housing needs in your district, for both renters and for homeowners?

There is a need for affordable housing for the workforce, seniors, veterans, and single adults. There are approximately 1000 people on the waiting list for the Pasco Housing Authority and can take up to two years to get assistance. Affordable housing options are out of reach for many single adults and families. Apartment rental costs are near impossible to afford for most. Homeownership comes with its own unexpected challenges due to rising taxes from assessment fees for basic services. My plan is to create an affordable housing citizen advisory committee to understand the issues and lay out action steps.

 

Affordable Homeownership
According to the most recent data from Zillow the median price of homes currently listed in Pasco County is $237,745 while the median price of homes that sold was $209,500. Opportunities for affordable homeownership still present challenges for many working families. What will you do to expand access to affordable homeownership for working families?

I will work to attract more affordable housing for single adults, young families, minority groups, and those on set incomes. I will work to keep taxes low, government spending in check, and work with local developers on affordable housing options. To involve citizens I will create an affordable housing citizen advisory committee to lay out action steps. I plan to make sure the County’s Comprehensive Plan is updated to include future land use for affordable housing and develop zoning regulations to support them.

 

Availability of Affordable Housing
According to the University of Florida Shimberg Center for Housing Studies, within our regional MSA which encompasses both Pinellas and Pasco counties there are only 53 available affordable housing units for every 100 households under 60% AMI. What investments or policy would you champion to address the growing gap between what citizens can afford and housing costs?

I would lead our Commission by working with the Pasco Economic Development Council to attract a more diverse business industry to ensure that we have higher paying positions that will allow families to afford housing in our area. I will work to attract and develop more affordable housing options within the County with an affordable housing citizen advisory committee. Keeping taxes low and spending in check will prohibit the need for additional fee assessments being levied on Pasco citizens. This will be one less unexpected expense that will ease the burden of homeownership that single adults and young families face.

 

Racial Disparities in Homeownership
In Pasco County there is a 20.4% gap between White (72.0%)/ African American (51.6%) homeownership rates which is better than both the State gap of 24.% and national gap of 28%, however still leaves work to be done. How will you continue this progress to reduce the racial homeownership disparities in households of color?

I will urge the State and Federal government to take action by strengthening mortgage assistance programs. The State and Federal government can take action by allowing rental payment histories to be taken into account when applying for a mortgage, and create and support programs to provide assistance during times of economic downturn. The racial disparities will be explored as part of the affordable housing citizen advisory committee.

 

Funding
We cannot meet our growing housing needs without additional resources. What do you believe can be done to provide additional resources for affordable housing and how will you work towards meeting those goals?

The total cost of the County budget for this year was approximately $1.5 Billion dollars. Our Citizens deserve to be involved in the budgetary process. My plan is to create a local group, similar to The People’s Budget Review, to involve citizens in reviewing the budget and making recommendations to the Board. This will make sure we are prioritizing citizen input. Aside from creating a budget oversight citizen group, it is our responsibility as elected officials to work with our legislators and make sure the Sadowsky Trust fund is used for affordable housing projects in our County.

 

Land
The availability of affordable land and developable land, especially around transit corridors or job centers in Pasco County continues to remain a challenge. What role can local government(s) play to help mitigate raising land costs?

Rising land costs is the downside to our current economic boom and will present an issue in securing affordable housing and a more diverse community. I will work to update Pasco’s Comprehensive Plan with input from all corners of our community. The Community can be involved in determining where new neighborhoods and businesses are permitted. This will ensure that we are able to attract affordable housing and affordable land. Updating the County’s Comprehensive Plan will assure that some areas of the County remain undeveloped and rural, which will preserve more affordable land options.

 

Specific to Housing
Any additional information pertaining to affordable housing you would like the voters to know?

With the current crises of Covid-19 and businesses closing down, I think it is prudent for the County to identify areas where we can purchase these spaces to use for affordable housing through a community land trust. It is imperative we continue to look forward at the potential problems that might arise out of our current situation and plan accordingly. The rates of homelessness will most likely increase with looming evictions. We as a county need to prepare for this and find ways to house the unsheltered.

 


 

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