Since winning his election in November 2018, Fort Myers City Councilmember Kevin Anderson has been raising his voice in support of Habitat for Humanity and affordable housing in Southwest Florida. Recently, Habitat for Humanity interviewed Councilman Anderson to get his thoughts on the state of affordable housing in Fort Myers.
H4H: What motivates your support of Habitat for Humanity, and why do you believe affordable homeownership is important for our community?
KA: I’m motivated by the fact that there’s a significant shortage of affordable housing options for our low and moderate-income residents. Over the years, the cost of housing has continued to climb, and wages in our community have struggled to keep pace. We simply have too many families in Fort Myers spending over half their income on housing, which often leaves them one missed paycheck away from homelessness.
H4H: Are you concerned there will be long-term social and economic challenges due to the city’s affordable housing shortage?
KA: Yes. The bottom line is when communities lack affordable housing, it negatively impacts the long-term economic health of the city. High housing costs mean our residents have less money to spend at local businesses. And businesses are less likely to invest in communities where their employees cannot afford to live.
More importantly, safe, decent, affordable housing is crucial to strengthening families and our community. I believe affordable homeownership is the best way for low-income earners to improve their economic situation. They can build equity, achieve security, and break the cycle of poverty. Homeownership also provides the stable environment needed for children to succeed in school and enjoy their youth.
H4H: As a member of city council, what do you think should be done to help stimulate the development of affordable housing?
KA: Improving local zoning and density ordinances along with bonus density and inclusionary zoning policies can increase the supply of affordable homes. Two other great ways to encourage the private sector to build affordable housing and keep cost low for nonprofit builders is to ease the burden of impact fees and create an expedited permitting process. These help to ensure the market feasibility and avoid expensive delays.
H4H: You’re known for being active in the community, what do you tell a constituent who may not be overly supportive of building affordable housing?
KA: Fort Myers is the #1 retirement location in the country, and we are the 6th fastest growing area. Our population is approaching 88,000. In Lee County there is a need of 52,000 affordable housing units. As we continue to grow, so will the demand for service industry related jobs and subsequently housing for people who work in these jobs.
The lack of affordable housing will have a negative impact on the long-term economic health of our community affecting crime, poverty, graduation, and addiction rates. Also, building affordable housing is just the right thing to do.
To learn how you can make a difference by advocating for Habitat for Humanity, visit habitat4humanity.org/advocacy.