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St. Petersburg Mayor Elect Ken Welch recently hosted three Community Conversations, with over 500 people participating across the events. The community was invited to discuss five pressing issues facing the City, including “Housing Opportunities for All”. Mike Sutton, our president & CEO, was asked to open this conversation as a subject matter expert.

To view the video, please visit https://youtu.be/kkhFMHxqROE.

Affordable Housing is a complex societal issue that has a multitude of diverse interventions, policy solutions and funding approaches. Housing should not be viewed as not as a one size fits all approach. Rather it is a continuum that spans from homelessness to homeownership. At Habitat for Humanity, we are solely focused on affordable homeownership, which we believe is one of the primary mechanisms in breaking the cycle of generational poverty and creating intergenerational wealth. However, we are impacted or impact the rest of the housing continuum. I stand here to both encourage and yet also provide the stark reality of the situation we are facing today.

In St. Petersburg families are spending too much to cover the cost of their home. As rent and homeownership costs skyrocket, wages largely have not kept pace, leading to an untenable situation where residents are forced to stretch each paycheck to its absolute limits.

For a home to be considered affordable, the annual costs must amount to no more than 30% of household income. However, today in St. Petersburg, nearly 40,000 households are spending over 30 percent of their limited income on a place to live, with over 70% of households who make under $35,000 being considered housing cost burdened.

The majority of these families are just one missed paycheck or medical emergency away from financial ruin and (or) homelessness. Many are often forced to make impossible decisions. Their choices are between putting quality food on the table, having access to medical care, owning reliable transportation, or simply keeping a roof over their heads.

Yet, affordable housing is about more than just a building; it includes the neighborhood and community assets that promote a high quality of life for residents. Key to developing communities of opportunity is ensuring that residents have access to essential public services and resources, including quality infrastructure, schools, employment, transportation, medical centers, and more. By strategically investing in underserved communities and supporting pro-housing policies, we can begin to mitigate the impacts so many are facing today.

Simply put, if not thoroughly addressed, St Petersburg affordable housing challenges threaten the quality of life for the majority of low to moderate-income families, while also hindering our economic growth. Yet all is not lost. And all is not doom and gloom.

If we prioritize the development of housing opportunities for all, we can create communities of opportunity, promoting sustainable growth that benefits all residents and stakeholders. An adequate supply of affordable housing is vital to creating an energized economy and healthy communities. Though a strong economy doesn’t always guarantee an adequate supply of affordable homes, an adequate supply of affordable homes does serve as the foundation for a strong and resilient economy.

There is no silver bullet for our housing challenges. However, policy plays a significant role in the supply of safe, decent and affordable housing. Working together we can and we will solve the affordable housing crisis we’re facing today.

Get involved through our Advocacy efforts today.

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