All demand, no supply: Jacksonville committee searching for solutions to city’s affordable housing crisis

The News4JAX I-TEAM continues to investigate Jacksonville’s affordable housing crisis — looking at potential solutions to the problem.

Jacksonville city officials, nonprofit leaders and private stakeholders met this week on Mayor Donna Deegan’s housing subcommittee. They’re working on a plan to fix some of Jacksonville’s most pressing problems.

The short-term and long-term goals come on the heels of several I-TEAM investigations into potentially dangerous living conditions at government-subsidized complexes.

Related: Mayor, city leaders descend on Jacksonville apartments after I-TEAM highlights despicable living conditions | Failing Jacksonville apartments to get new ownership, renovations after I-TEAM exposes years of problems

There are dilapidated and abandoned homes all over Jacksonville and some see it as an opportunity to help fix the affordable housing crisis in the River City. The affordable and low-income units often come with big issues.

The I-TEAM has spent significant time at the Eastside Terrace and Eastside Gardens apartments, documenting the bad conditions. Trash, rodents, mold, and plumbing issues are just to a few of the problems residents said they were dealing with. The building’s stairwells were crumbling and common areas were dirty.

News4JAX asked a resident living on Jacksonville’s Westside what she thought Jacksonville would need as far as housing.

“They need a lot of houses that are up to code,” Miss Gayle said. “Because there’s a lot of houses around here that are not up to code. And they have small children living in the houses that are not up to code.”We need more housing for not just moms and families but everyone in the city,” Phyllis Mattox with Northeast Florida Healthy Start, said. “The homeless population is very high right now.”

On Thursday, the city’s new housing subcommittee met to build a plan to solve some of the problems.

“As a city, we need to get to work to find the solutions to address the crisis,” Joshua Hicks, Jacksonville’s Affordable Housing Director, said. “And that’s what this committee is doing where we are going to make recommendations to the mayor and we’re going to push forward a list of goals that we think we can take action on this year or next year to move this forward. And some of that might be financial assistance.”

Paul Tutwiler, who leads the Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corporation, said the nonprofit developer has turned rundown city blocks into safe, affordable housing. They also built a community center, but funding is limited. He’s hoping for more public-private investment.

“Clearly, as a nonprofit developer, we are mission-driven,” Tutwiler said. “We consider our citizens first. It’s not just a bottom line. It’s about how they’re living. What’s going to happen to their family next year and the year after?”

The waitlist for Section 8 housing in Jacksonville is 147,000 people. In the meantime, this committee is considering short-term rent assistance – and relocations – especially for families living in unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

They’re also weighing in on stricter rules and regulations for landlords so they don’t neglect properties.

The housing committee is currently working on a comprehensive report about what they have found and how they think they can fix some of the problems here in Jacksonville. They’re going to bring their plan to the mayor’s office in late September.

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