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  1. Opinion

Hillsborough County needs more affordable homes. What can be done? | Column

Published Jul. 15

Hillsborough County residents are struggling to cope with the high cost of housing.

More than 200,000, or 41 percent, of households in the County are paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing. More than 100,000 households are paying in excess of 50 percent of their income in housing cost. Many people who live and work in our community cannot afford to live in neighborhoods close to opportunities for their children or close enough to their employment to avoid long and costly commutes.

Solutions to these challenges include the development of new affordable rental and homeownership opportunities in areas near employment and opportunity. The need for improved public transportation is also critical, and concentrating the density of new housing will help to increase the cost feasibility of improved bus and or rail lines.

An approach on increased density might lead to a focus on affordable rental communities. And adding affordable rental communities in areas of opportunity should be a critical part of a housing strategy.

However, there are still so many in our community who need the opportunity for homeownership, since homeownership contributes to healthy social mobility, generational wealth building and community stability. These opportunities are available within the Habitat for Humanity model that offers applicants the ability to partner with the community and build a sustainable, energy-efficient home with a mortgage payment typically less than $800 per month including taxes and insurance.

The needs of Hillsborough County residents will be served by promoting both affordable rental communities and affordable single-family homeownership opportunities in densities that contribute to transportation accessibility and efficiency. Affordable, single-family homes can be built at densities that contribute to this strategy. And, these single-family, affordable, homeownership opportunities will play a critical role in promoting social mobility and generational wealth building for those who have not yet been able to realize the family and societal benefits that flourish through homeownership.

Homeowners also are contributing to the tax base and are generally more active in the community to make it a better place to live for everyone. Habitat for Humanity of Hillsborough County accepts the challenge of working with our community to build appropriate density while at the same time being responsive to the aspirations of low-income applicants who are seeking single-family homeownership. This may require some zoning variances and a fresh look at the products that can meet the needs of the community, but that is a small price to pay for a family to achieve the American dream of homeownership.

Tina Swain is the CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Hillsborough County.

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