Commissioners Review Affordable Housing Report

Bill Lazar, director of the St. Johns Housing Partnership speaks to St. Johns County commissioners about affordable housing

Recognizing the role affordable housing – also known as workforce housing – plays in the community and its importance to economic growth, St. Johns County commissioners got a closer look at efforts to improve housing options.

“You really have a planning opportunity,” said Bill Lazar, director of the St. Johns Housing Partnership, in his presentation of the county’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee annual report to commissioners. “We have a group that works with your housing department once a month. One of the critical parts of all this is there is somebody in development services that becomes a point person.”

The annual report, required by the State of Florida through use of State Housing Initiatives Partnership program or SHIP funds, offered a look at progress made over the past year and the challenges facing the county in addressing affordable housing issues.

Lazar said the lack of affordable housing not only impacts current residents but the county’s growth as well.

“It really can have a major impact on who moves here and who stays here,” he said.

Like the housing market nationally, St. Johns County has seen housing costs increase.

“We’re all very aware of the rental market in St. Johns County,” Lazar said. “Our rental market has been going through the roof.”

Lazar said a continued lack of affordable housing could affect the county’s economy in the future.

“This is really coming to a point where, if we can’t figure out what to do in the next five years, we are going to see a serious impact on our hospitality industry,” he said.

Affordable Housing Advisory Committee chair Steve Ladrido urged commissioners to read the report and “find some solutions” to a “real problem” in the county.

Ladrido also said the lack of affordable housing can have an impact on the quality of life in the county, as well as the economy.

“If (current residents) start to go elsewhere, we lose quality people that are the fabric of St. Johns County,” he said.

Commissioner Sarah Arnold, who also serves on the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, acknowledged the seriousness of the issue.

“This is a huge problem, it’s undeniable,” she said. “It’s a tough one, but one we all know we have to face.”

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