Affordable housing crisis can be resolved with leadership and resources

The housing affordability crisis is the predominant issue affecting Broward residents. To remedy this will take collaboration across public and private sectors. United Way of Broward County has fought for housing for all through several of its missions and is spearheading a new initiative to address this now.

We are launching the United in Housing for Broward Program Related Investment Fund to address this crisis with immediate and long-term solutions.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines affordable housing as “housing in which the occupant is paying no more than 30% of gross monthly income for housing costs.” In Broward, the most recent ALICE Report (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) shows that 77,000 renters — two-thirds of whom are people of color — are severely cost burdened, spending more than 50% of their monthly income on housing Moreover, 54% of all employees in the county earn less than 60% of the area median income. And finally, Broward is ranked last in the state’s 67 counties in affordable available housing to this population, with less than 25 units for every 100 families. These are employed people like teachers, office workers, service industry and retail employees — the backbone of our economy.

Deploying a collective impact methodology collaborating with stakeholders including public and private entities, United Way of Broward County can leverage combined strategies, both established and new, to effectively alleviate the crisis. With this cornerstone, and a timely gift from the MacKenzie Scott Foundation, United Way of Broward County is actively assembling a capital fund to support affordable housing projects that directly benefit ALICE households. Using the program-related investment model, the fund will aid eligible organizations in the creation of these projects. Merging local, state and federal dollars with philanthropic donations, including funds from the MacKenzie Scott Foundation, the goal is to reduce the gap in affordable units by 2,500 over the next five years.

A pilot program, now underway, is anticipated to deliver 160 units across Broward County, positively impacting more than 300 residents, with some units available in June 2022. These will include sustainable housing, including homeownership and long-term rentals.

Concurrently, United in Housing for Broward will advocate for local policy changes to increase our community’s affordable housing stock. Initiatives include engaging with county leaders to streamline the building and zoning process, finding ways to incentivize developers, land repurposing and enlisting support from the business community and financial institutions.

Without access to affordable housing, considering the historic increase in cost of living, our workers will seek other areas of the country where they are better able to sustain their families’ health and well-being. Quality, affordable housing is a key element of any strong community. We look forward to collaboration and engagement across all sectors to achieve this for Broward County.

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