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 Pinellas Board of County Commission
Name: Maria Scruggs
Candidate for Office: Pinellas County Commission, District 7
How would you characterize the housing needs in your district, for both renters and for homeowners?
The housing needs in District 7 which consists of three of the most economically challenged zip codes in Pinellas County but also is home to neighborhoods like the Old Southeast where the median income is $62,000\. The greatest housing needs for both renters and homeowners in these diverse neighborhoods is affordability,
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?
Access to affordable homes begin with linking residents in District 7 to the jobs that pay the livable wages.
To purchase a median priced home in Pinellas County one needs to earn at least $53,427.00 The average wage earner in Pinellas County earns $47,411.00. Six of the top 10 highest paying jobs within Pinellas County are in healthcare. Innovation District is a perfect example of a linkage opportunity that can serve as a base for increasing incomes that can afford the homes in PInellas County.
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 support the expansion of Penny for Pinellas Funds to 15% for affordable housing. This recommendation would only be put forth after participating in a comprehensive assessment of the impact of COVID 19 on the residents and businesses within the County. Priorities will have to be established based on a comprehensive community assesement.
Racial Disparities in Homeownership
In Pinellas County there is a 31.6% gap between White (69.1%) and African America/Black (37.5%) homeownership rates, which is higher than both the State gap of 24.% and national gap of 28%. How will you reduce the racial homeownership disparities in households of color?
The homeownership disparities exist due to the gap in income. I pointed out the need for the County Commissioner representing District 7 to be an advocate to link African American residents to efforts already underway to link residents to higher paying jobs. Two of those initiatives are Innovation District and the County’s regional economic initiative linking jobs to higher paying industries.
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 County is going to have to face the reality that COVID 19 is going to present some serious funding challenges. The one thing that I know is going to have to occur is the County go on a listening tour to determine the impact of COVID 19 on residents, businesses and not for profits. Funding sources are a major threat and it would be irresponsible to begin naming a funding source with out understanding the economic impact to the County.
The availability of affordable land continues to remain a challenge. What role can local government(s) play to help mitigate raising land costs?
Government can leverage public and private partnerships to help mitigate rising land costs.
Specific to Housing
Any additional information pertaining to affordable housing you would like the voters to know?
Affordable housing is a pressing need in District 7, however the voters are going to have to be a part of a county wide plan which create doable funding options given our current financial reality.
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