CHR Looking At Ways to Expand Affordable Housing Opportunities

SC Staff Report

Community Housing & Resources is looking at ways to expand its affordable housing opportunities. In the Sanibel City Council meeting on July 16, Councilman Richard Johnson agreed to work with CHR Executive Director Melissa Rice and city staff on drafting language for an ordinance to raise the Area Median Income by 40 percent.

“Having worked with the organization for (15) years, I think I have a good handle on the challenges it’s going through,” said Johnson, who has served as CHR Board President since 2010 and is council’s liaison for the Below Market Rate Housing Subcommittee that reviews the program. “I am happy to take this on.”

The Area Median Income is the midpoint of a region’s income distribution and defined and calculated at different levels by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. For housing policy, income thresholds set relative to the AMI identify households eligible to live in CHR rental units. Locally, it’s based on all of Fort Myers and currently set at 120 percent in the Sanibel Code.

During a BMRH Subcommittee meeting in April, raising the AMI to 160 percent was discussed extensively before it was recommended through planning commission to council. Rice told the subcommittee many similar communities throughout the country use workforce housing which has an AMI from 140 to 160 percent.

She said there are three vacant units due to them being designated as “very low income” by HUD standards, but could be available to more families as workforce housing. “That (very low income) category dictates that you must make $14,000 to $20,000 per year, so it is very hard to find someone who makes that little amount of money on Sanibel,” said Rice.

In addition to raising the AMI, there was extensive discussion at the BMRH Subcommittee meeting about mixed-use properties including a CHR unit which would help address issues with density. Rice reported the organization’s expansion committee has been reviewing land acquisition options for building additional units, but may be cost prohibitive, and explored city-owned land with no real results.

CHR currently operates 74 rental units, of which 15 are one bedroom, and maintains 14 limited equity ownership units in three locations on Sanibel. The greatest need is for one bedroom units, according to CHR’s analysis. There were 12 on the wait list for a rental unit and eight waiting for an LEO, as of April.

Rental Unit Renovations

Over the past year, several CHR locations received new flooring, cabinets and carpentry; one location received a new roof; and the playground at Mahogany Way was renovated. CHR received a Community Development Block Grant to renovate six units at Center Street, which included new gutters, air conditions, water heaters and fixtures. That work was completed in March.

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