Candidates for Volusia County Council are considering affordable housing

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Candidates for Volusia County Council president expressed support for creating a dedicated fund for affordable housing during an event this week that attracted hundreds to a Daytona Beach church.

Members of Faith – Fighting Injustice Towards Harmony, a non-profit organization made up of members of faith congregations across the county, organized a candidate forum on affordable housing as part of the Community Issues Assembly this week at the Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church at 580 George W. Bush. Ingram Blvd. In Daytona Beach.

Event attendance is estimated at more than 400 people

Organizers estimated that more than 400 people attended the event, which focused on some of the group’s priorities such as affordable housing and criminal justice.

FAITH is active in county council meetings, sometimes bringing large groups into council chambers to call on members to take action on a range of issues.

The group hosted dozens of meetings to learn about people’s interests. Pedro Dash, of Tubman King Community Church, said most of the stories they heard focused on the lack of affordable housing. People also talked about rising home insurance costs, he said.

He said: “We heard dozens of stories about people who are worried about their children and grandchildren who are struggling to save enough to provide a place to live.” “We have heard from seniors across the county who are being removed from their homes.”

In Volusia County, there is a large gap between the need for affordable housing and what is available.

The county’s affordable housing plan, approved in 2022, said the county needs 11,530 affordable housing units.

Wages are a problem.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a full-time worker in Volusia County needs to earn $25.04 per hour to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment at a fair market rent of $1,302 per month. Affordability in this case means not paying more than 30% of their income on housing.

Meanwhile, the estimated average hourly wage for renters in Volusia is $17.48, according to the coalition. With this income, one can afford a monthly rent of $909.

Finding an affordable apartment is difficult, before considering factors such as community safety, amenities, and housing condition.

A search on Zillow on Wednesday turned up 140 results for one-bedroom apartments in Volusia County. The lowest price listed was $800 per month, and there were two listings available for that amount. Both were in Daytona Beach. Listings are quickly rising to more than $1,000 a month for one-bedroom apartments.

Port Orange Mayor Don Burnett and local business owner Randy Day, both running for incumbent County Council President Jeff Brewer, attended the event. Brower, Burnette and Dye are the only candidates who have filed to run for the seat so far.

FAITH Brower called, but he didn’t show up. Brewer said he had a prior commitment to speak at city hall about a proposed fuel storage and distribution facility in Ormond Beach.

View the Affordable Housing Trust Fund

The candidates’ session was short, with Volusia County-Daytona Beach NAACP Branch President Cynthia Slater asking the candidates several questions.

Both Burnett and Day said they believe Volusia County needs an affordable housing trust fund to help create more affordable housing. The trust funds can be used to address “critical housing needs” in the community such as building affordable housing, rehabilitating housing and supporting affordable rental housing, according to the county’s Affordable Housing Plan.

FAITH has been calling for the creation of a trust fund for years. The group is supporting the launch of a countywide housing trust fund with $2.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars.

Both Burnett and Day suggested ways to bring in local funding for affordable housing.

Day said he supports developers’ input.

“I think there is a way we can ask developers, who are raising housing prices, to finance affordable housing,” he said.

Voluntary participation?

He also suggested that the county could add a section to annual tax bills that would allow people to voluntarily contribute to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

Burnett said he supports considering having the county government accept endowments and other contributions from people in the community to support affordable housing.

Referring to a Bible passage, he said: “All of us in this community need to step up.”

Both men shared personal stories as they concluded their comments.

Day said at one point “way back” his family was a candidate for affordable housing.

He said he worked on affordable housing issues through the church and community nonprofit Volusia Initiative, and through that he saw how difficult it is to convince people to support affordable housing — but he said he’s not done fighting on the issue.

Rent “enrich someone else”

“Everyone will nod their heads and say affordable housing is good until it fits in their backyard,” he said.

Burnett said his father has lived near Sunnyland Park in Daytona Beach since 1964 and plans to stay there, but he said his father wants to see changes in the community. Burnett said the neighborhood hasn’t changed much over the years.

“That’s a problem. When you rent, even at a reasonable rent, you’re still enriching someone else,” he said. “We have to find a way to get people into housing so they can build generational wealth, no matter how modest, so that we help not just people today, but cumulatively for future generations.”

The ceremony included personal stories from residents. Among those who shared their struggles was Frances Owings, who said she lived in her car for six months because she couldn’t find an affordable place to rent in Volusia County.

“One night I ended up in the emergency room, then I underwent surgery and had two stents placed in my heart. Please help the residents get the affordable housing they desperately need,” she said.

Some elements of the county’s affordable housing plan are already in place. This year, the county approved financial incentives through a plan to go toward a 40-unit residential development for human development at 1445 Flomich Street just outside the Daytona Beach city limits.

Brewer, who spoke by phone with the News-Journal, said that while the county’s affordable housing plan supported creating an affordable housing trust fund, the idea never took off. He said he does not support creating a trust fund because he believes enough money already exists for affordable housing.

He said the county’s ongoing program needs a chance to work.

Brewer said the county needs to attract more companies that offer higher salaries. He also said he supports requiring developers to set aside a portion for affordable housing if they seek a zoning or land use change.

He said that affordable housing is a top priority for him as he seeks another term, and the issue is personal. He said that some of his children are looking for places to rent and face high costs.

“I don’t know how young people are supposed to get started… there’s no such thing as affordable housing anymore,” he said.

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