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A new report offers suggested solutions to Florida's housing crisis

If you need more proof of how widespread the challenge of finding affordable housing in Florida is, a new report from the non-partisan Florida Policy Project has it.

Former state Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) is the founder of the group.

He said if nothing is done, the problem could get worse.

"And it doesn't get better if we just focus on apartments," Brandes said. "I always think of housing as a pyramid, you have to build from the top, middle and the bottom.

"Because if you don't build enough at the top, they push out the people in the middle, and the people in the middle will push out the people in the bottom."

It doesn't help Florida's population is growing at an unprecedented rate. Brandes estimates at least 800 to 1,000 people are moving here each day.

"And that is not stopping," he said. "Even during the kind of the slowdown that we've seen here over the last few months."

Brandes added, by 2035, the state could have a population of 28 million people.

The group's latest research shows the issue is not just confined to the Tampa Bay region. Brandes said that a million residents statewide are spending 50% of their income on housing.

"This is a Miami-Dade problem. This is a Naples problem. It's an Orlando problem," he said. "It's really spread throughout the state. And that's why we need a variety of the strategies.”

But Brandes said there’s no “one size fits all” solution to the housing crisis.

He said one huge issue is that supply is not meeting demand.

“It really takes us working with apartment developers, condo developers, and frankly, single family homeowners, and counties and cities to improve the amount of supply available to meet the demand," Brandes said. "This is kind of economics 101.”

It's not just an urban problem either. Rural counties are seeing housing shortages as people move further away from the city core.

Brandes said that makes it more difficult both for commuters who are traveling and for businesses trying to attract talent.

“Ultimately, the solution is that we have to have the supply available to meet the demand," he said. "Without that, rents are going to continue to climb.”

The report found that from 2015 to 2022, the median home price in Florida climbed from under $300,000 to $450,000.

But the median household income dropped from nearly $67,000 in 2019 to under $60,000 in 2021.

Brandes said a key piece to fixing the issue is figuring out how to incentivize not just homebuilders, but homeowners to build more accessory dwelling units.

That, he said, would require cities and counties to make some of the changes necessary to increase residential density.

"What can we do on upzoning? How do we incentivize the smaller lot sizes?" he added. "Those are the types of strategies we're working with legislative leadership on to discuss."

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Meghan Bowman