County Helps Residents Cope with Rising Cost of Housing
Yeimy Ponce, a medical technician and single mother, loves her two-bedroom residence at Silver Lakes Apartments on West Idlewild Avenue.
It’s close to shopping and her children’s school, Oak Grove Elementary, and not far from her job at St. Joseph’s Hospital. There are places for her daughter, Emily, 10, and son, Josue, 9, to play.
“There’s a park for the kids. There’s a pool for the kids,” Yeimy says. “There are lots of children here. They’re growing together like a family.”
Hillsborough County’s Affordable Housing Services worked closely with the developer of Silver Lakes Apartments, providing money and oversight to help rehabilitate, maintain, and operate the 72-unit complex west of Dale Mabry Highway and north of Hillsborough Avenue. It’s one of many ways the department, along with the private sector, helps low- and moderate-income families and individuals.
Many working-class families and adults on fixed incomes need reasonably priced housing. Finding it often is difficult. The average household can afford to pay about $700 monthly in rent, while the market rate for a two-bedroom apartment averages more than $950.
Affordable Housing Services’ goal is to work with developers and nonprofit groups to provide quality living accommodations. When people have a decent place to call home, they are happier, feel more secure, and are more likely to succeed in school and careers.
Hillsborough County continues to help people secure good places to live despite outside influences that weigh heavily on housing choices, such as wages, rising real estate prices, and steep reductions in funding. State Housing Initiative Program (SHIP) money that local governments use to encourage and support affordable housing has dropped more than 75 percent in Hillsborough County during the past two years, from $6.2 million to $1.3 million.
There are no easy solutions. Collective efforts to address the persistent need for affordable housing must become a societal priority, championed by federal, state, and local governments, nonprofit groups, and the private sector.
Still, Affordable Housing Services this year plans to add more than 575 apartments and other residences. Silver Lakes is among five apartment complexes now open for occupancy, and another one, Sweetwater Villas, is slated to open in June. Two additional complexes will open later in 2018, and three more will be ready for tenants in 2019 or 2020.
The County is addressing the funding limitations by rethinking how it uses public resources. For example, Affordable Housing Services is:
- Strengthening relationships with nonprofit organizations to take advantage of community connections and resources.
- Identifying target areas where existing land uses, demographics, and availability of jobs and transit make investments in affordable housing a good bet.
- Promoting infill development and redevelopment in the target areas, including re-use of existing housing stock.
- Maximizing use of publicly-owned land for development of affordable housing.
The County also is exploring the use of niche housing such as “tiny homes,” modular housing, and container homes, and redevelopment of smaller multifamily complexes, with 20 units or less.
Meanwhile, Affordable Housing Services continues coordinating with the County’s Homeless Services department and Tampa
Hillsborough Homeless Initiative (THHI) to make use of community resources.
Yeimy, who moved to Hillsborough County 19 years ago and went to Leto High School, says many people need a hand making ends meet. “It’s kind of tough finding a nice place to live with two kids,” she says.
Yeimy encourages people who need help to seek it. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” she says. “Since I found this, it’s so much better.”