Pensacola is suffering through a housing affordability crisis.
That bleak picture was painted by the Florida Housing Coalition as it presented a draft report to Pensacola’s Affordable Housing Task Force during its final meeting Thursday. Once adopted by the city, the report will be a road map to achieve Pensacola’s goal of 500 affordable units created in five years.
The 25-page document includes findings about the state of affordable housing as well as recommendations for how the city will create more in the future. After a final discussion, the task force voted unanimously to forward the report, which outlines six strategies for creating more affordable housing and 24 action steps to get it done, to the city council for consideration.
“Now, the city needs to lead a cohesive land use, financing and strategic partnership framework to carry out its goals,” according to the draft report. “This will require, at minimum, additional city resources such as local funding and land, staff capacity to implement the 500 Homes in Five Years Action Plan.”
Earlier in the year, the housing coalition found that only one of 10 of Pensacola’s top jobs can afford a market-rate two bedroom apartment and most professions do not pay enough to afford a monthly mortgage payment, according to the report.
In addition to the general need for more affordable housing, the report found that “Pensacola suffers from a profound economic divide that exists mostly along racial lines.”
“Pensacola has a wealth divide that is closely related to race; many census tracts with a high percentage of African Americans have median incomes that are less than a quarter of Pensacola’s wealthier, predominately white census tracts,” according to the report.
The document was created around the pillars of equity, accessibility and affordability with the hopes of ensuring that any resources that are distributed are done so equitably by geography and by race.
“I do think that it is excellent that we highlighted it in the draft report that we do want Pensacola to work toward a future where all residents have access to housing that they can afford, excellent housing, safe housing and housing that’s appropriate for their circumstances,” said Patricia Lott, executive director of the Escambia County Housing Finance Authority.
Even then, Douglas Brown, executive director of the Community Action Program Committee, was concerned the task force can’t do enough to address the disparities.
“This is the equity that we won’t be able to address. … You really don’t have a way of putting your arms around it and even measuring it,” Brown said. “Equity as it relates to affordable housing and particularly as it relates to people of color is a whole different conversation that I don’t know if this group is prepared to discuss or even equipped to discuss.”
In a previous meeting, the task force narrowed their efforts down to six strategies to increase the affordable housing stock.
- Engaging in strategic partnerships
- Collaborating for the private sector to identify incentives for the creation of affordable housing
- Leveraging existing city property to create affordable housing
- Supporting tax credit developments
- Identifying sites for suitable infill development
- Identifying adaptive reuse possibilities.
Since then, the coalition listed a total of about 24 actionable steps under the strategies that the city can take to create or encourage more affordable housing. Those include steps such as creating an infill development program, establishing a request-for-proposals process for affordable housing development on city-owned land and creating a revolving low-interest loan fund for affordable housing construction.
Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson said the city was hoping to receive a wide swath of recommendations from the task force. He said while they will be used to look into single-family detached homes, the city also will look at tiny homes and how to use lots already owned by the city.