Everyone dreams of owning their own home. Many will eventually even dream of designing their own home and succeed.
For over 50 years affordable housing has been an issue that every community has sought to solve. States and the federal government allocate billions of dollars each year to try to fix affordable housing.
Over 40% of people report having difficulty in securing affordable housing. According to the Monroe Group 11 million American’s pay more than half of their salary toward rent and over 15 million children live in poverty. These are national statistics, but the concept applies in Gainesville, where at least 24% of school aged children live in poverty.
Gainesville has proven time and time again that it can work collaboratively to develop solutions.
Affordable Housing Solutions
Here are four ways that Gainesville can address the affordable housing issue locally.
Invest in Older Buildings
Drive around town and you will see some older buildings and even houses that are empty and have been for years. The owner has yet to do anything with these buildings. Can we incentivize these owners to bring more housing to the community?
In some cities they are repurposing old fire stations into affordable housing. We could work on similar creative solutions for Gainesville. We have revitalized downtown, but a strong downtown does not provide quality housing to residents. We must develop housing and business in concert to assure we have the room for future growth of Gainesville.
Embrace Tiny Houses
This style is not for everyone, but if I have family members thinking about this as a possible solution for themselves, then surely you or someone you know has considered it at least once. A renter could get into a tiny house with modern amenities for around $60,000 on average. With multiple ideas for creative, unique, and inspired tiny house designs, and a reform to zoning regulations, hundreds of people can be lifted from poverty. True, a tiny house comes with hidden costs, but the effort to get a family moving up in the world would be worth investing in providing the family with financial education to move to the next home.
The city does not have the authority to help a business out with the Texas Franchise Tax, but the city collects property taxes and sales tax. Just like we offer relocation incentives for companies to move to Gainesville we could offer tax incentives for employers to help employees live in Gainesville. These incentives may require some action from Austin, but if cities were using these types of incentives to compete for employers and employees that is better for the free market.
Responsible Use of Public Funds
Public housing funds are a trap for many people. They provide no way to move up from the current situation. We can develop a pathway to home ownership plan with the Gainesville Housing Authority to help those who want to get on a firm financial footing. This could be done by establishing a trust account for public housing residents at a local bank and setting aside a portion of the rent each month to help the resident build up a down payment on a home. How about some form of equity earning plan. A resident would earn equity on their rental up to a maximum amount that could be used to help with a down payment. Innovative ideas like these are being tried all around the country. It is time we brought some Texas ingenuity to this issue in Gainesville.
These ideas would be a risk, but the reward would be great not only for Gainesville, but for the resident it is helping. The more ideas we pilot test now the better chance we have of ending dependence on public resources.
What are your ideas for fixing affordable housing?