Housing In Brief: Hurricane Ian Is Straining Florida’s Affordable Housing

Also, how Asheville, North Carolina is responding to its ongoing affordable housing crisis.

Hurricane Ian recovery in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by City of St. Pete/ CC BY-ND 2.0)

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Hurricane Ian Exacerbates Florida’s Housing Crisis, Devastates Mobile Home Parks

The housing crisis in Florida is facing new strains due to Hurricane Ian, NBC News reports, as people whose homes were destroyed compete for an already scarce supply of affordable housing. The hurricane showcased the vulnerability of manufactured homes, according to NPR, which examined drone footage of a community of 178 mobile homes that was devastated, with many trailers “no longer recognizable as human dwellings.” The Washington Post reports on a mobile home and RV park in Fort Myers Shores that had 365 trailers, 90% of which were either destroyed or damaged due to flooding.

According to NPR, older manufactured homes are more vulnerable to high winds but are still desirable because of their affordability. Of 822,000 mobile homes in the state, two-thirds were built before 1994, when the U.S. government mandated stricter wind standards, according to NPR. While many Florida homeowners were without flood insurance when the hurricane hit, most insurers refuse to cover older mobile homes altogether, according to the Post.

A Salve For Mobile Home Attrition In Asheville, North Carolina

To deal with an ongoing affordable housing crisis, Asheville, North Carolina is set to reverse a law that prevents manufactured homes from occupying lot space when a previous unit has been removed, according to The Asheville Citizen Times. The law currently prevents a new manufactured home from occupying a lot in a mobile home park when that lot has been vacant for 180 days. But a newly approved amendment to the city’s zoning – which will go before the City Council on Oct. 30 – removes any such limits in mobile home parks. In some specified areas outside mobile home parks, the vacancy limit has been extended to 365 days. The law will help manufactured home owners whose damaged trailers have long repair times exceeding 180 days. It should also slow the attrition of mobile home lots in the city, although it does nothing to expand existing lots.

As in many cities, residents in Asheville have been turning to manufactured homes due to the lack of affordable housing and despite the zoning that has pushed them out of many cities and suburbs. According to the Citizen Times, rents in Asheville’s mobile home parks serve people making 30-40% of the area median income.

L.A.’s Section 8 Waitlist Reopens To High Demand

After five years, Los Angeles will reopen its Section 8 housing waitlist, allowing 30,000 residents to apply for federal housing choice vouchers. According to a press release, the application will be open from Oct. 17-30, after which the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) will select 30,000 applicants through a random lottery. As the L.A. Times points out, the Section 8 waitlist was last open to applicants in 2017, resulting in over 187,000 applications representing over 457,000 people, all vying for 20,000 slots. The need is even greater now, as homelessness in Los Angeles has increased 26% between 2018 and 2020 and 4.1% between 2020 and 2022. The head of HACLA told the L.A. Times they are anticipating 365,000 applications this year. Applicants must qualify as “extremely-low income” to apply, which HACLA defines as under 30% of the area median income. Voucher holders only spend between 30-40% of their income on rent, with the federal government paying the rest. If a resident is fortunate enough to obtain a voucher, they will be competing for a shrinking number of affordable units due to the city’s ongoing affordable housing shortage.

HUD allocates over 2.2 million Housing Choice Vouchers to public housing authorities nationwide, based on need and population.

Recommended Reads

New York Focus reports on how New York City’s suburbs, particularly Long Island and the Hudson Valley, build housing at lower rates than nearly any suburban region in the country, exacerbating the city’s housing costs.

A Street Easy report finds that New York City’s year-over-year wage growth lagged 23% behind rent growth, the largest such gap since 2008. Real wages in the city decreased 9.1% over the year before, a result of inflation, while rents increased 13.4% year over year.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

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Roshan Abraham is Next City's housing correspondent and a former Equitable Cities fellow. He is based in Queens. Follow him on Twitter at @roshantone.

Tags: new york citylos angelesfloridanorth carolinanatural disasters

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