Attainable Housing Crisis Worsened by Ian Devastation

Guest Correspondence

Graphic courtesy City of Sarasota: "Missing Middle" overlay district.

Our attainable housing situation was a crisis before COVID and before Hurricane Ian. The mass migration to Florida from COVID remote work opportunities, and now the Hurricane, has intensified our attainable housing crisis immensely. The entire county needs to pay attention to this, but especially the Sarasota City Commission who will be contemplating changes to incentivize the building of attainable housing.

Many of those who serve the city as police officers, nurses, teachers in city schools and first responders have been forced to live in the southern part of the county and commute to Sarasota. A large number live in North Port and Englewood. These are the same people who have lost their homes temporarily, and some permanently, to Ian’s destruction. Housing was already at a premium, but now those who were living on the edge of homelessness, are actually homeless now and looking for a place to live, driving demand up further.

This problem is compounded by the fact that Hurricane Ian crossed the State of Florida and even exited the state with hurricane gusts, leaving a swath of wind and flooding destruction from one coast to the other. The City of Sarasota is not the only municipality facing this problem; this makes this disaster-related housing demand surge a state-wide dilemma. Workers driving further away from the area for housing will not solve this problem, they won’t be able to find it.

Axios recently wrote about affordable housing and disasters in the wake of Hurricane Ian in an Oct. 5 article. The author demonstrated how disasters diminish the amount of affordable housing and many are compelled to leave because they can’t afford to live in the area. Unfortunately, according to Axios, the most sluggish category of housing to rebuild is rental.

On Monday, the City Commission will be voting on the second reading of ordinances amending the City Comprehensive Plan to adopt policies to make it easier to build attainable housing in the City of Sarasota. They heard the pleas of young professionals at the first reading, and to their credit, commissioners recognized on the record that many in the workforce could not attend as they were working their jobs to provide housing for their families. That first reading was also before the devastation of Ian.

This second reading is now even more important for the future of the City of Sarasota and the future of the workforce that supports it. The attainable housing crisis has worsened considerably for the city in a matter of weeks. While these votes will not wave a magic wand and fix it immediately, it will put the city on a path to developing specific tools to encourage the building of attainable housing.

The Argus Foundation supported the changes to the City of Sarasota Comprehensive Plan prior to the Hurricane. We continue to support these changes to help our workforce. We need it now more than ever.

Christine Robinson is executive director of The Argus Foundation.

 

Graphic courtesy City of Sarasota: "Missing Middle" overlay district.

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