Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Care Needed to Find Affordable Housing Solution

Letter to the Editor

After reading several media accounts detailing town hall meetings riddled with contention regarding the potential repurposing of the land deemed Manatee Regional Park, I feel compelled to share my research.

Naples and the surrounding area is in desperate need of more affordable housing. For those of you who do not know, Collier County has an Affordable Housing Advisory Committee (AHAC). The role of AHAC is to gather and convey public input on the future of affordable housing within Collier County. Once a month, on Monday mornings I block my patient schedule, so I can serve on this committee. That experience has provided me intimate knowledge on where our community stands (and rest their head).

When treating an ailment, doctors are trained to assess the whole patient, not just a symptom, keeping in mind the fundamental teaching, first, do no harm. Housing, as it turns out, is no different. When the community demonstrates the need for more affordable housing, care must be taken to ensure the housing type, location, and intention of that housing, fits the community’s needs and does not cause more harm than it fixes.

I compiled, then presented, the below information to the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee at our last meeting and felt it should be shared to help do no harm to our wonderful community.

MAP 1: titled Collier/41 intersection taken from the Appraiser’s site has been color coded to detail specific housing types surrounding the proposed development area (in yellow).

As you can see indicated in red, the area features a preponderance of manufactured home communities. This corridor accounts for over 20% of ALL manufactured homes in Collier County. Due to the drastically reduced rate of appreciation (compared to a traditionally built home), these mobile homes and neighborhoods, although not constructed as low-income housing developments, are by their very nature affordable housing. A quick Zillow search will display a parade of dozens of these properties for sale in a price range that meets the county’s definition of affordability for VERY LOW or LOW income individuals.

The areas covered with black show some of the communities or homes that are deemed Gap Workforce Housing (valued at or less than $300,000) as indicated by the county’s criteria. With the variety of new construction and existing homes of this area offering options to families of all income, why do we need to give away park land for more low-income housing in this area?

Please see the chart below MAP 1.

The excerpt taken from the AHAC meeting minutes from April 2017, shows district 1 has the largest absolute number of homes below 175,000 dollars in the county, in fact district 1 has 32% of the entire counties properties apprised under $175,000. Why would we need to subsidize the most affordable land in the county?

Another symptom that needs to be added to the assessment is the areas identified on the MAP 1 in blue. Some of the blue represent the amazing work the Naples Chapter of Habitat for Humanity (HFH) has done. HFH has enabled at least 934 families to build their lives in East Naples through their affordable housing developments and remodels. The rest of the blue shows more than 150 acres of additional undeveloped land HFH owns. The area the map represents is only about 1% of all land available in the county and is home to over 54% of the HFH houses built in the county. Taking into account the maximum affordable housing density offered to affordable development, HFH undeveloped 150 acres could potentially add more than 2000 additional housing units to an already saturated area (the 150 acres only accounts for parcels easily searchable, titled in HFH’s name).

As one looks closer, the aspects of what makes the Manatee Road Parcel a poor choice for continued affordable housing projects become even more apparent. Consider its overall location relative to the workforce requirements of our county detailed in the included graphics.

MAP 2: Where Workers Work shows jobs, geographically, in Collier County. As you can see, the concentration of labor needs within our county is far from the proposed housing site. The drive from East Naples to the majority of employment in the county could be upwards of an hour during our busy season. The result would be overcrowding our already busy arterial roads and flooding residential neighborhoods with through traffic.

MAP 3: What Workers Make in SE Naples shows the average income of workers in the highlighted section of town. I find it compelling that nearly 75% of all workers living in this neighborhood make an amount that would qualify them for even the most stringent affordable housing requirements. When compared to the county as a whole (data shown on the “Where Workers Work” graphic), the preponderance of this working class within this neighborhood is 10% greater than the county average (which also factors in this same area). Proceeding with this project would in my own perspective violate the county’s mandate to refrain from oversaturating an area with low income housing, invariably harming schools and stretching regional resources thin.

Please consider how concentrating even more affordable housing units in the most affordable part of Collier County far from the majority of workforce needs is going to impact not only those presently living there but also those who are drawn there by the county’s future planning.

Sincerely,

Dr. Carlos Portu, MD
Marco Island

One response to “Care Needed to Find Affordable Housing Solution”

  1. Richard Peters says:

    Very astute and accurate observation of the issue!

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