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Underwater and Rising: The Housing Situation in Florida Is About to Get Much Worse.

 

Florida is known for its beaches, its stunning vistas, and its tendency to be in the path of most major hurricanes.

It also has a darker side — all you need to do is search “Florida man” on Google for a taste of that. Living in Florida can be great if you’re a vacationing northerner, but for those who call the Sunshine State home, it’s getting harder and harder to get by. With the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Irma earlier this month, the housing crisis seems to be getting worse by the day.

Florida’s Housing Crisis

South Florida is full of places where you can rent or buy properties on the beach — Miami, Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale and the Florida Keys are popular locales, just to name a few. If you’ve got the funds to buy a beachside vacation home — and insure it, which we’ll talk more about in a moment — you can spend your winters in sunny paradise.

For the people who live in these areas, it’s becoming more difficult to afford even the most basic place to live. Palm Beach County, for example, lists its median home price as $327,000. The county’s median income, on the other hand, is only $51,804, according to the last census.

Many of these people who fall at or below the county’s median income choose to live in manufactured homes in trailer parks. These can be a great option, until someone with a lot of money decides to buy the property and turn it into yet another resort for vacationing travelers.

Irma’s Aftermath

In the path of a hurricane, the first people to be evacuated are those in manufactured homes, even if they’re far inland. The logic behind this is that these homes are not strong enough to withstand the powerful winds brought by a hurricane, so families who live in them are forced to retreat to shelters or the homes of friends or family to weather the storm.

Many of them know their homes will likely be destroyed if the storm is strong enough, so when they’re allowed to return, it’s just time to pick up the pieces. Unfortunately, many trailer park inhabitants in south Florida right now are worried they won’t even have any pieces to pick up if the majority of their trailer park is declared uninhabitable.

One park in the Keys, Sea Breeze, was largely destroyed by Irma’s wrath, and now some residents worry that the company that owns the park — Sun Communities — will use this as an opportunity to bulldoze the entire park in favor of developing it into something else.

If this happens, and the property is turned into expensive housing, chances are these displaced individuals will be unable to continue living in the area. They will be forced to abandon jobs and schools to move somewhere with more affordable rent but possibly fewer job opportunities.

Temporary Solutions

Florida Gov. Rick Scott stated that the Red Cross is opening shelters in the Keys for individuals whose homes were destroyed or who are unable to return home because of damage or blocked roads.

While this solves the short-term problem, it doesn’t address the growing housing crisis that could get even worse if greedy contractors are allowed to swoop in and buy damaged properties at a loss to develop them into high-dollar resorts.

Affordable housing doesn’t have to lower the value of a neighborhood. Quite the opposite, in fact — one community in Fayetteville found that building a mixed-income residential project actually revitalized their community. The project was completed thanks to a $20 million grant from the Hope VI Revitalization Grant, and more than $100 million in other funding.

The completed facility transformed the neighborhood, and turned the area into a place people wanted to live in again.

There are few things more challenging than losing your entire home. Florida residents are used to coming back and picking up the pieces after a bad storm blows through, but if contractors are allowed to use natural disasters to their own advantage, it could leave thousands of people without homes.

The state does depend on tourists to supplement its income, but that supplementation shouldn’t come at the expense of the people that live there.

This problem, once again, highlights the serious issue of our country treating low-income areas and inhabitants like disposable parts of their communities. We need to be talking about the housing crisis in general on a much wider scale.

If you would like to help the manufactured home and trailer home communities of Florida, make your voice heard by reaching out to those in charge of the companies that own the parks, as well as state representatives. And just as importantly, keep sending aid and donating to the recovery effort as much as you can.

This crisis isn’t over just because news coverage has shifted to Trump’s deplorable comments about NFL protests.

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Kate Harveston
Kate Harveston is a freelance writer and blogger. Her work focuses on health and culture. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found curled up in her hammock with a book or exploring the city for trendy coffee shops. You can visit her blog, So Well, So Woman to read more of her work and receive a free subscriber gift!