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The Tallahassee Chamber's Prosperity Forum tackles the issue of affordable housing

Christic Henry had some sobering points to make at the conclusion of her forum presentation
Tom Flanigan
Christic Henry had some sobering points to make at the conclusion of her forum presentation

The Greater Tallahassee Chamber’s Prosperity Forum at FSU’s Turnbull Center Wednesday morning took on the issue of affordable housing. More than 100 community leaders got a grim status report, but also a few glimmers of hope.

The overall goal seemed simple enough:

“How we can facilitate the production of more affordable housing, or make housing more affordable?” asked one of the presenters at the start of his talk.

But it seems the forces of the market aren’t easily swayed. Tallahassee real estate expert Christic Henry shared extensive data, showing that the purchase price of Tallahassee housing - even in the town's more "affordable" areas - is relentlessly rising. And, she concluded, since housing costs can’t be forced lower, the income of the average household has to go up.

“Enterprise has to fuel this. We can’t subsidize our way out of this. It’s not going to work. We don’t have enough money!”

A bit more hopeful assessment came from Florida Housing Coalition’s Program Officer Ashon Nesbitt.

“There are a lot of private actors working in this space. If we can just coordinate and harness all or this activity and interest in this subject, I think we can really pull all the resources together and make a difference.”

Particularly since, with the current labor shortage, all employers are appreciating more than ever how important it is to have employees and for those employees to have an affordable place to live. Nesbitt's talk included a number of successes in other communities, such as the redevelopment of derelict commercial tracts into workforce housing. Another concept was larger employers, such as hospitals, providing their own workers with low-cost housing in dedicated developments.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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