Over the last year and a half, the pandemic has impacted housing in ways we never would have imagined. As many companies throughout SWFL and the US have sent employees to work from home, the demand for housing in our area has gone up. This demand has been driven by locals seeking more spacious accommodations for home offices and home schooling, plus, remote workers from other states looking to claim their own pieces of paradise right here in Lee County. As a result, our area’s housing supply has decreased significantly, and the cost of local homes is skyrocketing.
Despite the housing market’s recent and significant changes, the truth is, homeownership costs have been steadily increasing for years. According to urban economics and housing policy expert, Jenny Schuetz, there are a number of factors contributing to this trend. Now that people are living longer with better quality of life, older adults aren’t selling their homes as rapidly as they used to, Schuetz says. This makes it significantly more difficult for younger adults who are ready for homeownership to find homes. Schuetz also states that following the housing crash of 2008, new home construction slowed down significantly and has yet to bounce back.
While the bidding war for housing continues among financially secure families, it’s those with lower incomes who are facing the most significant consequences of the current housing boom. Swiftly rising home costs mean that families who’ve worked hard to prepare homeownership may no longer be able to afford it, let alone find suitable housing that fits their needs. Plus, with the increased cost of housing comes a correlating increase in the cost of rent.
Prior to the start of the pandemic, more than 52,000 Lee County residents were already paying at least 50% of their income on housing. The shifts we’ve seen in the housing market over the course of the pandemic means we’ll likely see an increase in families who are paying more than they can reasonably afford on the cost to rent their home. We’ll also continue to see an increase in families who become homeless because they can no longer afford their homes.
The critical need for affordable housing in our area isn’t anything new, but it’s worth our attention now more than ever. Although Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties can’t possibly accommodate this need on our own, with support from the community, we can make a difference.
This fiscal year, Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties has a goal to build 60 homes for local families in need of decent and affordable shelter, and you can play a significant role in helping us achieve that goal. Financial donations go a long way. We’ve worked hard to maintain accountability and remain transparent in our service as demonstrated through our four-star rating on Charity Navigator and Platinum Seal of Transparency from Guide Star.
Outside of financial gifts, donating gently used home furnishings to your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore helps us raise additional funds to support the mission. Plus, advocating for more affordable housing within our county, state, and nationwide governments can help create more affordable housing in addition to what we’re able to produce.