TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — At Wednesdays meeting of the Hillsborough County Commission Colonel Cory Damon, the Vice Base Commander at MacDill Air Force Base, told commissioners many of his service members are now faced with very tough choices about where to live.
“Our military members and their families assigned to MacDill Air Force Base are experiencing significant difficulty in securing affordable, adequate and safe housing for their assignment in the Tampa Bay community,” said Colonel Damon.
The Colonel said their housing choices are having an impact on base readiness.
“These families going further and further away to stay within a family budget has the potential to impact our forces to train and respond to their missions because of the increased travel and family support challenges,” Damon said.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman proposed using $9 million of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan to fund affordable housing plans to buy existing housing, build new housing and refurbish some buildings that can no longer be lived in.
“Any project that we break ground on, or get close to breaking ground or at least decide we are going to is going to take at least two years before we have one place available for families,” Overman said.
Her proposal was met with resistance from other commissioners who said the remaining funds from the American Rescue Plan need to be held in reserve in case there is an emergency.
In the end, commissioners did not vote on the issue. When Overman realized it would not pass, she asked that it be considered at another time.
Overman said affordable housing concerns are the number one call she’s now getting.
“They call our offices, they call affordable housing services every day,” Overman said. “I’ve got four today that are saying my rent is going up and I can’t renew because I can’t pay this rent. Can you help me?”
The county has taken steps to build affordable housing.
Overman points to a joint partnership with Catholic Charities as an example of something that can help.
Mercy Oaks is one of the apartment buildings to come from this partnership. The building on Florida Avenue that will provide homes for 20 families.
“The majority of people who would be eligible to move here are working,” Overman said.
Rent at the apartments will be based on income.
“I think there is a perception that people are living free in our affordable housing, well that is far from from the truth,” said Overman.
She said some people are reluctant to have any affordable housing built in their neighborhood.
“There is still a bias, that where poor people live and consequently it’s going to be bad housing,” Overman said. “These are beautiful.”
The apartments will soon open, but Overman admits the county could use many more just like it.
“So, while affordable housing sounds great, it is incredibly expensive to do, but it’s really important because this is our work force,” said Overman.