ST. AUGUSTINE, Florida. – Nestled behind a massive oak tree in West Augustine is a new affordable housing project from the St. Johns Housing Partnership.
“This building we have here is for the low-income veterans we’re building,” said Bill Lazar, executive director of the nonprofit St. Johns Housing Partnership.
Patriot Place apartments are six one-bedroom units that rent for $1,000 a month in a county where finding a place to rent even for $1,500 isn’t easy.
RELATED: St. Johns County Commission approves new workforce housing project off CR-210
According to a recent report by the St. Augustine Record, rents in St. Augustine have increased 14-23% over the past year, depending on the number of bedrooms, and the average rent for a bedroom is $1,600. . The average is $1,850 for a two bedroom.
Lazar said one of the biggest challenges in creating more affordable housing is building infrastructure such as sewer lines and roads and the high cost of doing that. It is also difficult to obtain funding and subsidies to achieve this.
“So the most important thing that we continue to do is look for land where we can build something quickly,” he said.
About a mile from Patriot Place, the nonprofit is building a cluster of single-family homes that will sell based on buyers’ income for between $230,000 and $260,000, well below the median cost of a home in the county which as of this month is $555,000, according to the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors (NEFAR).
Data collected by NEFAR shows that St. Johns County is the least affordable of the region’s eight counties. Experts say this makes it difficult for many workers to find accommodation. And that’s getting harder and harder as deep-pocketed investors and new Florida residents flock to a county known for its great school district and beautiful beaches.
AFTER: Want to buy a repairer in St. Augustine? This 1-bedroom house is for sale for $349,000
“The new homes we’re building and the new rentals we’re building are designed to try to stabilize our existing workforce. They’re just completely overpriced by rental investors and people moving here who have more money than common sense, as far as I can tell,” Lazar said.
Shannon Nazworth is the CEO of Ability Housing, a Jacksonville affordable housing nonprofit. She appeared on This Week in Jacksonville and said it left people like teachers, MPs and government workers with few options.
“It’s a problem in St. Johns, it’s a problem in Duval. The city of St. Augustine really cares about its employees, the people who work for the city. They all start living in Putnam County. It’s not sustainable. They need employees closer to where they work,” Nazworth said.
RELATED: St. Johns County unveils $1.2 billion budget proposal as home values skyrocket 17.8%
Part of the problem, Nazworth said, is that wages are not keeping up with soaring house prices. The two nonprofit leaders say local, state and federal governments need to do more to address the problem.
“We need to take ownership of more affordable housing, especially affordable rental housing, that’s the greatest need,” Nazworth said. “The simplest thing [the community can do to help] is if they have land that might be suitable for housing, try to find an organization to work with to turn it into housing, especially in the faith community. Maybe they were going to open a school or open a second church or something, and it just didn’t happen. Talk to us talk to someone else. Maybe we can buy that from them and turn it into affordable housing. Finding land is one of the hardest things. But other things people can do is invest in housing, invest in affordable housing, hold our elected officials to account, tell them it’s important, and notice if they’re not investing in it. These are all things that we, as citizens of this community, are responsible for.
RELATED: St. Johns County approves workforce housing development where townhouses are capped at $240,000
Nazworth said she would like to see the federal government add affordable housing to the budget and increase spending for both tax credits as well as the US Department of Housing and Urban Development budget.
Lazar said one way to help is to call him if they are thinking of selling their house.
“We’ll give you a fair market rate, but give us a chance to buy it before the rental investors do, because what we do is build for people who live here or already work here. “, said Lazar.
For more information about the St. Johns Housing Partnership and how its programs work, visit its website.
Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4JAX – All Rights Reserved.