Many of Florida’s front-line professionals – including police officers, firefighters, nurses, emergency medical staff, and potentially even teachers, are struggling to afford homes in the communities they serve. And many of those workers would prefer to live in the same community where they work rather than commute to work from distant suburban or rural residences.
Data from Florida Realtors association found that EMTs and paramedics need to earn $25,000 more per year to afford a median-priced home in the state. Nurses would need to earn $15,000 more per year, and firefighters earn $10,000 less than needed to afford the same median-priced home. Front-line workers are often able to afford the monthly payments associated with owning a home but aren’t able to afford the initial down payment and closing costs.
“Front-line workers are the absolute foundation of our communities, something that has been made even more apparent during this pandemic. They are putting their lives and health on the line every day to benefit those around them, yet Florida has no homeownership program in place to ensure that these heroes can live in the communities where they work,” said Florida Realtors CEO Margy Grant. “We’re pleased that legislative leaders recognize the importance of this issue and we look forward to working with them on meaningful solutions.”
And the state’s affordable housing problem is growing worse, according to recent studies. The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes last month was $354,000, an increase of 18% over last year. Data also showed that Florida homebuyers – and especially front-line workers – had significantly fewer housing options this year than last year: the number of single-family homes with a value of $300,000 or less declined over 60% in the last 12 months, making it extremely difficult for first responders and emergency workers to find affordable homes at all, let alone in the communities they serve.
One solution, Realtors say, is to work with state legislators to address the issue in the upcoming legislative session. They aim to protect existing programs that provide housing assistance for vulnerable, low-income Floridians while also creating a new homeownership program to help front-line professionals. By pursuing this legislative approach, Realtors can help Florida bring targeted assistance to these front-line workers surrounding the housing challenges they face following next year’s legislative session.
“During the pandemic, when ‘home’ took on a whole new meaning, Realtors put forth unprecedented efforts to ensure that Floridians were given every opportunity for housing assistance. Advocacy comes in many forms – Florida Realtors believes that protecting funding for housing and creating new options for homeownership for our front-line workers is a top priority,” said Florida Realtors President-Elect Christina Pappas. “We are excited to work with the Legislature to advance new programs and improve existing ones to ensure that all Floridians, especially our front-line workers, have access to safe and attainable housing.”
Affordable housing issues are expected to be one of the top priorities of legislative leaders during the upcoming legislative session.