One out of every three people employed by the city of Gainesville cannot afford a modest two-bedroom apartment at fair market rental rates. With its housing wage at $16.88 per hour, too many residents across Alachua County face the same problem.
Pamela Davis, executive director of the Gainesville Housing Authority, shared these statistics during a meeting Wednesday at the Thomas Center Spanish Court on Northeast Sixth Avenue.
“If we want our community to thrive, we have to have housing that is affordable for everybody who lives and works in our community,” said Davis, who added that, consequently, the “real problem” is that “we cannot keep our families intact or stable.”
The meeting brought together people interested in learning more about how a community land trust functions and could benefit residents looking for more affordable housing.
Formed in April 2017, the Communities That Care Land Trust is an outgrowth of the Gainesville For All initiative focused on addressing racial and economic inequities in the city and region.
“In order to renovate our aging affordable housing stock and to create new housing in the lower price range, a large and sustained infusion of capital will be required,” Gary Hankins, president of the land trust, wrote in a recent Gainesville Sun op-ed.
“We know that funds coming to Alachua County from state and federal sources, though helpful, will be far too meager to address this need,” Hankins wrote. “What is required, in my view, is a locally sourced and managed housing trust fund sufficiently capitalized to stimulate a level of affordable housing development that can revitalize disinvested neighborhoods.”
A community land trust enables a nonprofit organization to offer low- to moderate-income households to buy houses and keep it affordable so as to prevent foreclosure, said Anne Ray, a Communities That Care board member, and manager of the Florida Housing Data Clearinghouse at the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida.
Davis’ presentation preceded one by Camille Reynolds, director of the Hannibal Square Community Land Trust, founded in 2004 and based in Winter Park, a suburb of Orlando.
Between 2005 and 2015, the number of Orlando-area apartments costing more than $2,000 a month to rent increased by 97 percent, Reynolds said.
“There is a need not just in Gainesville but throughout Florida, and throughout the nation, for affordable housing,” she said.
Over the next year, Communities that Care hopes to have an office space and website, Ray said.
“We’re looking for some individuals in Gainesville itself to step up to make contributions to this organization, so we can get this model going in Gainesville,” she said.
Ray said the trust most wants to acquire land in places where property values are rising.
“The areas between UF and downtown are really job-rich and transit-rich areas where housing costs are expected to rise, so that would be one example,” she said. “But we really are not limiting at this point.”
Gainesville City Commissioner Gigi Simmons led the meeting and invited Reynolds to speak. Simmons said before the meeting that she has been actively looking into community land trusts for some time prior to her election this year, and is happy that other people in Gainesville share her interest.
“I think Communities That Care is a great organization,” she said. “They are looking at a situation that we all think is dire in this community, and they have taken the steps to try to approach the situation and help.”