We made it! The much anticipated arrival of 2021 is finally upon us. Hope everyone had a healthy and happy holiday. Although vaccines are being rolled out across the country, COVID numbers are rising locally and we must remain vigilant as an end is hopefully near. As we’ve said in the past, housing is essential, yet it is also healthcare. The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted low to moderate-income (LMI) individuals and families who Habitat Pinellas and West Pasco serves. Increased health risk factors, occupational hazards, crowded/unsafe housing, reductions in wages or hours, delays in unemployment assistance, limited savings, limited access to mainstream credit and difficulties navigating a myriad of social programs are just some of the factors which unduly impact those we serve. Staying “safer at home” relies on the condition that one has a safe home to reside in. At Habitat, we continue to seek the advancement of affordable housing and are excited at our opportunity to make a greater impact in 2021.
Equity in Homeownership
In a partnership between the United Way Suncoast, Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Partnership, the 2020 Regional Equity Report examined a multitude of indicators seeking to measure the racial gaps existing within our region. One of the indicators studied was homeownership rates by race/ethnicity. Disappointingly, yet not all that surprising Pinellas County ranked 7th out of our 8 county region in both black homeownership rates (37.5%) and Black vs White homeownership gap (-33%). If Pinellas County is going to succeed both economically as well as socially, this gap must be closed. This issue should be a priority for policymakers and funders alike.
Pinellas Affordable Housing Compact
On December 11th, 2020 Pinellas County officially launched its “Advantage Pinellas Housing Compact” which seeks to create a “coordinated framework for addressing affordable housing needs, while respecting the autonomy of each local jurisdiction.” Pinellas is seeking to have the majority if not all municipalities become a party to the compact and work in a countywide/coordinated effort to address various affordable housing issues. The next steps will be to have local municipalities sign the compact and then convene to begin creating a strategy. As always stay tuned for updates.
If you were unable to attend the virtual session, video is linked below:
HB 159 – Affordable Housing Residency Requirements
Filed by Florida House of Representative Fred Hawkins, this legislation would impact any affordable housing units built upon on either county or municipal property. The bill states every able-bodied person 18+ residing in housing would be required to participate in (A) career training or job skills program (B) attend training on resume writing, preparing for a job interview and creating a budget (C) the maximum length of residency in such housing is 3 consecutive years. Such legislation would significantly impact our homeowners and presupposes that all residing in affordable housing do not have an adequate career nor the skills necessary to obtain gainful employment. We will continue to monitor this legislation and provide updates as well as advocacy opportunities shall the need arise.
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