Florida’s home affordability crisis is real, and it’s especially brutal for South Floridians. In fact, unless you’re earning six figures, you may not be able to afford to rent a home here – much less think about owning. Affordable housing is in crisis.
According to a new report from Realtor.com, rent costs in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area are growing faster than all but two metro-area markets in the country. The average rent cost here shot up 27% in just one year, to $2,432. A rule of thumb has been to spend no more than 30% of your income on housing, so that means unless your household pulls in $97,000 a year, you may not be able to afford the average rent. The picture is no sunnier for would-be homeowners: Realtor.com says in July 2021, the median listing home price in Miami was $450,000, up 15.4% from a year ago.
Here’s what makes this situation impossible for many: The median household income in the area in 2019 was just $60,141, and just 3.1% of jobs here earn $100,000 or more. In other words, 97% of our neighbors aren’t even making two-thirds of what they’d need to afford the average rent.
One group that has been leading the charge to increase access to affordable housing for Floridians are the Realtors.
There are more than 200,000 licensed Realtors in Florida and they are among the most knowledgeable when it comes to the different resources and assistance programs that are available to people like first-time homebuyers.
Florida Realtors recently launched a petition drive to put a requirement in the state constitution to dedicate more funds for housing, and that effort got legislative leaders talking. It resulted in an agreement that the Realtors and legislative leaders will work together in the months and years ahead to ensure that housing funding remains for those who are vulnerable or in need through existing programs.
These discussions also prompted policy talks about a new program that would benefit teachers, nurses, first responders, and other front-line workers. The details of this program have not yet been shared, but there is a broad consensus that more needs to be done for front-line workers.
Instead of the long, uncertain push for a constitutional amendment, the Realtors believe this arrangement will lead very quickly to new programs that will help struggling Floridians.
“Florida Realtors believes that protecting funding for housing and creating new options for homeownership for our front-line workers is a top priority,” said the organization’s President-Elect Christina Pappas. “We are excited to work with the Legislature to advance new programs and improve existing ones to ensure that all Floridians, especially our front-line workers, have access to safe and attainable housing.”
The Realtors analyzed data and found that front-line workers in particular face strong challenges when it comes to home affordability. For example, EMTs and paramedics would need to earn $25,000 more a year to afford a median-priced home in the state, while nurses would need to make $15,000 more a year and firefighters $10,000 more a year to afford the same home.
“Front-line workers are the absolute foundation of our communities, something that has been made even more apparent during this pandemic. They are putting their lives and health on the line every day to benefit those around them, yet Florida has no homeownership program in place to ensure that these heroes can live in the communities where they work,” added the group’s CEO, Margy Grant.
In many cases, front-line workers are able to afford the monthly payments associated with owning a home but aren’t able to meet the requirements for the initial down payment and closing costs. This program would aim to address these challenges for a range of different professions.
Realtors and legislators will be working to protect existing programs while creating a new home ownership program that provides down payment and closing cost assistance for front-line workers. The details will be worked out during legislative committee meetings, which began this week, and in the Legislative Session that starts in January.