The final report recently submitted by a consultant suggesting ways to address Collier County’s challenge in providing housing that’s affordable doesn’t offer much in the way of surprises.
We find that’s a positive, however, in several ways. The fact the report won’t take many by surprise means public awareness to this critical issue finally is elevated. Secondly, the report pulls together figures from a variety of resources, meaning various organizations have engaged in the data mining and the job now is for commissioners to determine public policy to address the issues raised.
Thirdly, it shows county leaders made a wise choice in spending $125,000 to hire a respected organization, the nonprofit Urban Land Institute, because the team engaged in a thoughtful process. ULI began the public sharing of its findings and recommendations four months ago, after an intensive weeklong study.
County government leadership is to be commended for its handling of this issue. Commissioners, led by Chairwoman Penny Taylor, quickly quashed the “nonstarters,” such as imposing a local minimum wage. Commissioners gave direction on which ideas to consider from ULI’s verbal report shortly after it was given four months ago.
The county’s housing staff, an advisory committee and a separate task force of interested citizens and business leaders have moved forward without wasting time on dead-end issues. Commissioners already have pushed forward one idea: They recently directed staff to identify surplus county property on which a public-private partnership might build the type of housing needed.
A county government spokeswoman said all of this work is being assembled into a Community Housing Plan that’s expected to be presented to commissioners Sept. 26.
Quotes and quotients
The 400-page report is available at the county’s website. Go to: www.colliergov.net/home/showdocument?id=73188
Here’s are some statements and findings we’d note:
+ “High housing prices have priced out much of the workforce needed for the county to function,” the ULI team wrote. “Employees are now driving long distances to and from work and employers are having a difficult time finding and sustaining workers.”
+ Commuting from neighboring counties to jobs in Collier “will soon become a less viable solution to housing affordability as new development pressures have been increasing housing cost in those counties as well.”
The report says 17.5 percent of the workforce in Collier commutes from a nearby county. Of the Collier school district’s 6,700 employees, 14 percent live in a neighboring county. Among commuters, 79 percent drive alone, 2 percent use public transportation and less than 10 percent ride-share.
+ The minimum income needed to afford rent in Collier is $30,000. The hospitality industry accounts for 19.7 percent of the workforce in Collier but the typical individual hospitality employee’s annual wage is $28,800. Specific occupations that typically earn less than that $30,000 benchmark are food service workers, cashiers, preschool teachers, janitors and construction workers. Imagine for a moment a community without those segments of the workforce.
+ Collier County has 18,000 severely cost-burdened households, including 11,500 homeowners and 6,500 renters.
+ “There is a significant need for affordable housing for seniors and disabled individuals with limited incomes,” the ULI report states.
Other reports worth noting
As the ULI document arrived at county offices, some other recent reports came out that reminded us of the importance of addressing this housing issue:
+ The state’s April employment report showed there are 3,815 job openings in the Naples area, with just 629 of those in high-skill, high-wage science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related fields. That means our businesses need workers for occupations in which home affordability is a major challenge for prospective employees.
+ Collier employers likewise need young professionals. An apartmentlist.com survey showed 80 percent of 24,000 millennials questioned wish to purchase a home or condo in the future, but three-quarters who want to buy can’t afford it. Based on their current ability to save, it will take many 12 years to save enough for a 20 percent down payment, the report showed.