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Pompano Beach Event Addresses Affordable Housing Crisis

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Visited Pompano Beach Yesterday to Dedicate First of Seven Habitat for Humanity Homes in New 77-Home Community, which will be the largest Habitat for Humanity project in Broward County’s history.

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By Danielle Charbonneau

On June 27, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis joined Pompano Beach Mayor Rex Hardin, Former Pompano Beach Mayor and County Commissioner Lamar Fisher, Pompano Beach District Four City Commissioner Beverly Perkins, Rick and Rita Case and a long list of community leaders and dignitaries to dedicate the first seven homes completed in “A Rick Case Habitat Community,“ a development project in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Broward.  

“A Rick Case Habitat Community” is a planned 77-home Habitat for Humanity development located at 1400 NW Sixth Ave. on nine acres of land between Blanche Ely High School and Hopewell Baptist Church. The community is the largest development project the Broward County Habitat for Humanity has ever tackled and includes a park surrounded by 42 one-story homes and 35 two-story homes. The projected $16 million project is to be completed in phases, and the first seven homes are now move-in ready.

“A Rick Case Habitat Community” gained national notoriety in March of 2017 when former presidential candidate and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for the project at Hopewell Baptist Church, which was also attended by then Florida Governor Rick Scott. Carson commended the project, saying it was a great example of public and private partnership.

“We have three to four times as many people in need of affordable housing as we are able to provide,” Carson said at the groundbreaking. “We need to start thinking of the right kinds of ways to do things…This project right here is one of the things that works.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis echoed this sentiment at the June 27 dedication ceremony, saying the project is a great example of community partnership. 

Each of the seven completed homes had a corporate sponsor, which presented each receiving family with the keys to their new homes. While the homes were subsidized by the sponsor, the families for each home gave a $2,000 down payment and underwent a rigorous, highly competitive application process to receive a mortgage through Habitat for Humanity for their new home.

Nancy Robin, CEO and Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity, said that “there’s a misunderstanding out there that Habitat gives homes away or that it’s a lottery system.”

“It’s not a giveaway,” she said. “The families are taking a mortgage. They have good jobs, they’re putting down a down payment, they’re putting in sweat equity and they are truly, truly, working so hard toward the dream of home ownership.”

To paint a picture of the rigorous application process, Robin told Point! Publishing that in the initial application cycle for the Rick Case community, Habitat Broward received over 5,000 applications for only 15 open slots. From those, Habitat narrowed the batch to 1,247 based on the income requirements for a 30-year, zero interest mortgage on the homes, which were appraised around $175,000. After the number of applicants was narrowed to 1,247, they were invited to a series of informational sessions in which Habitat explains the process.

“It is an 18-month journey,” Robin said. 

The participants are required to put in 300 sweat equity hours (including building the home, working in the Habitat for Humanity ReStore or in the office, and attending workshops). Families work on both their own home and their neighbors’ to encourage community building. Both parents and children attend workshops.

After the 1,247 applicants learned about the requirements, Habitat was left with 630 applications. By looking at credit, job history and verifying incomes, Habitat whittled them down to 130. Using other, less objective factors, the pool was narrowed to 25. Then Habitat performed home visits. Robin said Habitat looks for families who resonate with Habitat’s values and are determined to provide their children with a stable home environment and a good education.

“They truly must want the American Dream,” Robin said.

While the house payment itself for the homes in the Rick Case Community only calculates to around $400 a month, Broward County has extremely high property taxes and insurance.

“Those [taxes] are half, if not over half, of their housing payment,” said Robin. “The total came to about $950 a month.”

Habitat serves families who make 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) and below, so the applicants needed to have a family income of around $38,000.

The seven families who were presented keys to their new homes at the June 27 dedication ceremony had an impressive list of careers, including: 

  • Victoria Griffin, who works as a patient access representative for Boca Regional Hospital and has been associated with the hospital for 15 years
  • Edna McKinney, who has worked as the Registrar for William Dandy Middle School for 18 years, and her husband Tyronne McKinney Sr. who coaches at Northeast High and the American Youth Football League
  • Tiesha Duncan, who has worked as a medical assistant for Holy Cross Medical Group for the last ten years
  • Emeika Mejia, who has worked as a Financial Crime Specialist for Wells Fargo Bank’s Pompano Beach branch for nine years
  • Deresha Ferguson, who has worked as the Service Coordinator for JM Lexus for the past four years
  • Cassandra Baker, who works two jobs — one in campus safety for Broward College, the other as an Aviation Escort Officer for Akima Security Inc.
  • And Krystal Brown; who has worked as a supervisor for Walmart for the last eight years. 

The receiving families show that home ownership in Broward County is difficult even for families with good careers. Robin said that this is due to a lack of affordable housing. She called the affordable housing crisis a “South Florida epidemic.”

According to a mid-2017 study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, South Florida ranks as the worst area in the entire nation for the gap between wages and cost of housing. Broward County ranks dead last out of all 67 counties in Florida. 

According to the 2018 Broward County Affordable Housing Needs Assesment by the Metropolitan Center at Florida International University, the average two-bedroom apartment costs $1,902 a month to rent — far beyond what is considered affordable for most working families. 

In Broward County, 54 percent  of renters are considered to be “cost-burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs alone; and of those, 53 percent are considered “severely cost-burdened,” spending more than 50 percent of their wages on rent. 

“Every city is struggling with it [affordable housing],” Robin said. “But I think the uniqueness for us [in Broward] is that we are a hospitality and service-based workforce and our wages absolutely do not support the cost of housing in our community. It’s a problem. The need, I think, is as dire, truly dire, as I’ve ever seen it.”

By the time it is completed, “A Rick Case Habitat Community” aims to put a 77-home dent in the shortage of affordable housing in Broward County. The dedication of the first seven homes on June 27 was just the beginning, said Rita Case, Rick Case’s wife, who largely spearheaded the project.

“This truly is a dream come true,” she said. “Its going to be a neighborhood to build families and futures together.”

> TO READ POINT! PUBLISHING’S ORIGINAL FEATURE STORY ON “A RICK CASE HABITAT COMMUNITY” CLICK HERE


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