How the Deegan Administration says it plans to address affordable housing ‘crisis’ in Jacksonville

The number one problem facing Floridians today, according to a new UNF poll of registered voters, is the high cost of housing in what’s being called an “affordability crisis.”

Respondents to the poll said the economy, jobs and inflation, and things like education, are all top issues, but the top response of the biggest issue facing Florida and impacting their lives was housing.

News4JAX asked Jacksonville’s affordable housing and community development director on Thursday what local officials are trying to do to take the financial stress off of local families.

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“I’ve been waiting for a poll to show this and the fact that housing is now above the economy, in terms of priority here in Florida, shouldn’t come as a shock,” said Jacksonville Affordable Housing and Community Development Director Joshua Hicks.

It’s all of Florida, not just Jacksonville that’s experiencing what experts call a housing crisis, and that calls for immediate action on the state and local level, Hicks said. He said the new poll reveals that the crisis is real, and continues to grow each month as the state’s population bursts at the seams.

The poll found 26% of respondents said the cost of housing is the biggest problem facing Florida today, followed 25% of respondents who said the economy, jobs and inflation top their list.

In a separate question, about the state’s property insurance crisis, insurance companies were the number one choice of voters in the poll, as to who is responsible.

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Hicks said Florida has too much demand for housing and simply not enough supply.

“We have 98,000 people on a waiting list for low-income or section eight housing in our community who do not have access to it because it’s currently full in terms of affordable housing, or 35,000 units short of where we should be in Jacksonville,” Hicks said.

Hicks said the affordability crisis is a top priority of Mayor Donna Deegan’s administration. Deegan reemphasized that on Thursday and said it’s being addressed in the city budget.

“The largest portion of our $25 million, that is going through council right now addresses affordable housing and homelessness issues. And that’s because we are at crisis levels,” Deegan said.

Hicks said ultimately what’s going to solve the crisis is building more inventory.

Hicks said a City of Jacksonville committee is taking action on a wide-ranging list of ideas to help struggling families in the short and long term, including:

Streamlining the permitting process for buildersCreating a housing oversight committeeProviding incentives to developers and community housing partners

Hicks said right now there are no new Section 8 housing projects being built, but that could soon change. City council is expected to vote on some of these initiatives Dec. 12.

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“Rental assistance and eviction prevention assistance. We’re going to RFP, those dollars out to our community organizations who are helping people who need emergency rental assistance,” Hicks said.

One of the main contributors to the housing crisis is that large sections of Jacksonville, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are now dominated by rental units often owned by investors.

One recent city report found that about a third of the homes that sold in Jacksonville last year were purchased by investors.

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