Housing crisis

What resources are available amid Jacksonville’s affordable housing crisis?

Monthly expenses continue to swell with inflation for most families in Jacksonville, and even with various fixes, such as the proposed reduction in the property tax rate, some families are worried about how they will pay their bills now. .

Despite initiatives aimed at helping future buyers or pleas for the freezing of rent increases, no solution seems to be coming quickly enough. Here are some options for people looking for ways to get help now:

Help for homeless people

The Jacksonville Housing Authority works to provide safe and affordable housing and social services to low- and middle-income families and individuals in Duval, Clay, St. Johns and Nassau counties.

It has 2,881 social housing units and manages 7,868 Housing Choice Vouchers – formerly Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers – for landlords in the area.

The housing authority also offers a list of local resources for various financial situations and needs, including paying utility bills or food and finding suitable accommodation.

It also offers specific referral assistance for veterans.

Federal Housing and Urban Development Grants in Duval County for rent and housing needs are allocated to the region on an annual basis to provide homelessness prevention services. Social workers can provide assistance in the form of motel vouchers or transitional housing for homeless people or families with children.

Tenant assistance

The Downtown Ecumenical Service Council offers financial assistance for rent, utilities, and security deposits through United Way’s 2-1-1.

Operators will review eligibility and make referrals to DESC. Calls are accepted 24 hours a day, but appointments are limited.

Grocery help is also available here.

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid also offers legal assistance to those who believe they may be facing illegal activity by their landlords.

Included in its online self-help section are interactive quizzes to understand an individual’s rights during the eviction process.

Ability Housing Of Northeast Florida and Duval County also operates low-cost rental homes, condos, and apartments in the area, with an emphasis on helping people with disabilities, seniors, or those without had housing before.

Shannon Nazworth, President and CEO of Ability Housing, said their communities are at capacity; however, anyone in need of emergency shelter should contact United Way at 2-1-1.

Nazworth recommends people talk to their owners to find solutions.

“Most landlords don’t want to evict; it’s a complex, unfortunate and, frankly, costly process for everyone involved,” she said. “If you can work out a payment plan or negotiate an arrangement that’s right for you, they’ll be much more receptive than if you wait until you’re several months behind on rent to let them know your situation.”

Services vary based on need and availability. Call 904-359-9650 for more information.

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Assistance to buyers and owners

Mortgage assistance is still available through the City of Jacksonville at myjax.custhelp.com.

People requesting assistance must be the owner and occupant of the property and have an income below 80% of the median income for the area. Household income brackets are available online for reference.

The program can cover up to six months of delinquent mortgage payments or $7,500, whichever is less. Payments will be made directly to the mortgage company.

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Duval County HUD may also be able to provide housing counseling, cash loans, and legal mediation. Call 904-232-2627 for more information from a local office.

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid also offers legal assistance to those who are unable to pay their mortgage.

The City of Jacksonville Division of Social Services offers an Emergency Financial Assistance Program that provides assistance to eligible households struggling with their rent, mortgage and utilities.

“The best way to reduce your risk of facing a housing problem is to have a good understanding of your income and expenses,” Nazworth said. “Organizations like Family Foundations offer programs on money management, including courses to prepare for homeownership — so you can take action now to prepare for a long-term goal. like buying a house.

Long term solutions

Nazworth said with Florida’s rapid growth, the state needs zoning policies, funding and targeted leadership support to make new affordable housing development a priority.

While there are a few options to help Jacksonville residents facing housing emergencies today, the best way to fix the problem won’t be with a band-aid, said Christina Kittle, Duval County organizer for Florida Rising. , an organization focused on problem advocacy. like the affordable housing crisis.

Florida Rising is advocating for three main things with local leaders to help Florida residents: declaring a state of housing emergency to enact rent stabilization; a tenant advocacy office within the city government and a bill of rights to hold landlords accountable; and an extension of the 90-day eviction notice for tenants who are pregnant or have children to give them more time to find new housing.

“Our leaders are afraid to take bold action for our so-called ‘Bold City,’ and they’ve run out of excuses to hide behind,” Kittle said. “Now we need them to act.”