Rising property values are pricing many new workers out of South Florida and creating an affordable housing crisis, Palm Beach County officials and real estate experts said during a summit convened Wednesday to address the issue.
“This is the most serious public policy issue we are dealing with here in South Florida along with rising sea levels,” said Edward “Ned” Murray, associate director of the Metropolitan Center at Florida International University.
The statistics show the extent of the problem, he said. While housing prices continue to climb, incomes have not kept up.
Palm Beach County’s median home price of $327,000 is unaffordable to 75 percent of households. The median home price is $330,000 in Broward County, while the median price in Miami-Dade County $320,000.
Palm Beach County’s median gross rent of $1,900 is out of the reach of 80 percent of renters, according to Murray’s research. Average rent in Broward County is $1,800, which is unaffordable for 78 percent of renters. The situation is worse in Miami-Dade County, where an average rent of $2,175 is unaffordable for 89 percent of renters.
About 56 percent of Palm Beach County renters are considered to be burdened, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Almost a third are severely cost burdened, meaning they spend more than half their income.
In Broward County, 59 percent of renters are considered to be cost burdened and almost a third severely cost burdened. Almost 62 percent of Miami-Dade renters are cost burdened and 35 percent are severely cost burdened.
College graduates and entry-level hires willing to relocate turn down job offers when they find out the cost of housing, Palm Beach County officials and business leaders said.
The school system is facing a shortage of teachers because they can’t make it on an educator’s salary, and some families are even left homeless, forced to sleep in cars or the woods, Palm Beach County Mayor Paulette Burdick said.
A combination of high housing costs and relatively low incomes made South Florida home to the highest percentage of cost-burdened renters in the country, according to a recent report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.
South Florida is losing out to other metropolitan areas because of the high cost of housing, Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker said.
The county invests in education, but graduates are moving to cities where housing is more affordable, she said.
“They are moving to Houston, Texas,” Baker said. “They are moving to Tampa, Florida. That is the investment in Palm Beach County that does not yield a return.”
More than 500 elected officials, business leaders and housing experts convened at Palm Beach County Convention Center on Wednesday to consider solutions.
Proposals included building transit-orientated developments that would allow workers to lower their costs by tapping into mass transit, waiving building fees and granting tax incentives for workforce housing projects and allowing increased density for new developments with price-capped units.
One speaker said turning shipping containers into homes could be an innovative way to lower the cost of housing.
“Look at them like Lego blocks,” said Craig Vanderlaan, executive director of Crisis Housing Solutions. “You can have fun with them. … Millennials absolutely love this stuff."
Container homes have already started popping up in South Florida, and some are posted for rent on the home-sharing website Airbnb.
County officials will gather the recommendations made at the summit and present proposals for county commissioners to consider.