The housing difficulty extends well beyond Palm Beach County; it is, in fact, a national crisis. But solving it will require some very local solutions, and that is where the business community can continue to help.
Palm Beach County is home to almost 1.5 million people – a number that’s rising each year. At the same time, our economy is continuing to expand as it becomes more diverse and dynamic, with unemployment remaining below 4%. While this is all good news, the reality is that growth brings challenges, and one of the biggest we face today is in the area of affordable housing.
How we address this dilemma will have a lasting impact on our social and economic future, and significant effects on the quality of life for thousands of residents.
>>>Related content: Editorial: Rising costs should force action on housing affordability
How bad is the affordable housing problem? United Way of Florida’s ALICE Report quantifies the size of the workforce in Palm Beach County that is struggling financially, and the reasons why. According to the report, 46% of our county’s households that are employed cannot meet their basic needs. And the number of workers struggling to cover essentials has actually increased between 2010 and 2016. Across Florida, there are more than 581,000 households that qualify as extremely low-income renters, but there are only about 153,000 affordable and available homes to rent. In West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, there are a combined 187,000 low-income renters, but only 45,000 affordable and available properties.
With home prices at record highs, the challenges are even greater for those looking to purchase a home. The median price for a single-family home in Palm Beach County continues to grow and now stands at $355,000. Many working families simply can’t afford the cost.
>>>Related content: Point of View: Collaboration is the only path to workforce housing in Palm Beach County
The housing difficulty extends well beyond Palm Beach County; it is, in fact, a national crisis. But solving it will require some very local solutions, and that is where the business community can continue to help. Across our region, public officials, community leaders and housing advocates are pushing for the development of more workforce housing and for options to make existing rentals and home purchases more affordable. But there is much more work to be done, and Palm Beach County businesses can help by supporting the work of housing organizations and advocating for more affordable options.
Local banks, real estate developers and others in the real estate community have an especially important role to play. Working collaboratively with developers and through public-private partnerships on affordable housing units, we can help promote forward-looking solutions that will help increase the affordability and availability of housing.
>>>Related content: Editorial: DeSantis should veto yet another irresponsible raid of affordable housing funds
At Bank of America, we have instituted multiple loan programs to help individuals and families embark on homeownership. Additionally, our national homeownership grant program has committed $5 billion over the next five years to various bank resources that help break down barriers to receiving a down payment on a home. This means eligible homebuyers in Palm Beach County could receive as much as $17,500 to help them purchase a home.
Good housing impacts all of us, even those who can afford to buy or rent. It influences every aspect of our community’s well-being, from the economy and education, to public safety and health. Consider also that the location and quality of a person’s home relates directly to their mobility, from how far they have to travel each day to reach a job opportunity, to where they may need child-care or other essential services. Additionally, it impacts a person’s ability to build a better life and become more prosperous.
As the affordable housing issue becomes more pressing, it’s time for the community to unite in pursuit of economic mobility.
FABIOLA BRUMLEY, WEST PALM BEACH
Editor’s note Brumley is Palm Beach County Market President for Bank of America.