Naples Daily News: Access to housing families can afford has reached crisis levels

By April 15, 2024 April 24th, 2024 News

I am a small business owner with restaurants in Naples, Fort Myers and Cape Coral that employ good, hard-working people. One of the biggest obstacles our team struggles with is finding and keeping a home that falls within their budget. Our restaurants pay significantly above the minimum wage, because hard-working people deserve to make a good wage, but they still struggle to make ends meet.  Having a home isn’t just about keeping a roof over your head, it is the basis for family prosperity and community economic growth.

When people have a decent place to live near their job, it’s a win-win. When my team have access to homes within their budget, near where they work, they are better positioned to contribute to the local economy. They spend less time stuck in traffic, which means more time for family and doing things they love. It means they are more likely to spend their earnings locally, supporting small businesses across Southwest Florida.

But this is not a reality for so many people across our region. Access to housing that families can afford has reached crisis levels, pushing many into a cycle of housing instability and financial strain. Too often, families are forced to live in substandard, overcrowded conditions, or are burdened by long commutes in traffic each day, simply because they cannot afford anything better. This not only undermines their health and wellbeing, but also lowers their ability to fully participate in the workforce.

And let’s not forget people juggling multiple jobs just to make ends meet. That means less time with family, less time to learn new skills and less time to support local businesses. It’s a vicious cycle that leaves too many folks feeling stuck and left behind.

Small businesses are important to our economy and employ most of the people in our communities. When people who work for small businesses have trouble finding a good place to live, it causes big problems. Employees grappling with the challenge of finding housing in their budget experience higher stress levels and lower job satisfaction, resulting in increased turnover rates and reduced productivity. It’s also harder for small businesses to find and keep good workers when housing costs too much, holding back innovation and slowing down economic growth.

To address these challenges, we must recognize that housing is not just a commodity but a basic human need. It’s time to prioritize policies and investments that expand access to housing options for all income levels. This includes supporting the development of workforce housing initiatives, changing local zoning ordinances and providing incentives for the construction of affordable housing units. By ensuring we have enough homes at prices that all families can afford, we can create a community where everyone can thrive. We must recognize that the wellbeing of our community is directly linked to the availability of attainable, stable housing. It’s time to join together to build a future where everyone has a place to call home and where small businesses can flourish.

When we have enough stable, attainable housing choices for everyone in Southwest Florida, our economy thrives and our community flourishes. It’s up to us to demand change and make sure everyone has a shot at a good life. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work, because together, we can build a future where everyone has a place to call home.

The Home Coalition is a regional network of cross-sector partners working to ensure that 80 percent of people in Southwest Florida have access to housing and transportation that costs less than 45 percent of their income by 2040.  By joining forces with stakeholders from various sectors, the Home Coalition is committed to shaping a future where housing and transportation are not barriers to economic wellbeing but pillars of a thriving community in Southwest Florida.  Together, we can build a foundation for economic prosperity and a sustainable future for generations to come.

To find out more about the Home Coalition, visit Collaboratory.org/join-a-coalition/