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Official: 125 families await public housing
Some say number doesnt give full picture of housing crunch in Gainesville
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More than 100 families are on a waiting list for public housing in Gainesville, a number lower than it’s been for the past decade.

Gainesville Housing Authority Executive Director Beth Brown said 125 families are on the agency’s waiting list as of this week. She said the average waiting period for these families ranges from three to six months.

Brown said the number of families on the waiting list is on the low end of where it’s been in many years.

“I would say that where we are now is as low as it’s been in the past 10 years,” Brown said. “It has been as long as 750 families.”

However, others say the number of families waiting for public housing doesn’t tell the whole story of the housing crunch going on.

Groups with outreach services to the poor say that the number doesn’t account for people sleeping in cars or whole families staying in motels because they can’t afford first and last month’s rent to move into a home or apartment.

Rose Johnson, executive director of the Newtown Florist Club — an organization with a 67-year history of helping minorities — recently told The Times that people call on a daily basis asking “where they can find a place to live.”

Johnson said that in her view, the housing shortage is one that won’t be remedied alone by what is generally termed as “affordable housing.” She said affordable housing is out of the reach of too many working-class people.

The U.S. government regards housing costs at or below 30 percent of one’s income to be affordable.

“There’s a gap there that a whole body of people that fall beneath the affordable housing category — who don’t live in public housing — and they are the ones who are feeling the crunch of not being able to find a place to live,” Johnson said.

Adding to the problem, Johnson said, are landlords who refuse to accept Section 8 vouchers from families.

Also contributing to the housing crunch has been the displacement of working-class tenants from homes razed because of an ongoing crackdown by Gainesville Code Enforcement against dilapidated rental homes found to be unsafe and uninhabitable.

The city of Gainesville has a program that provides incentives for property owners to demolish properties that are not economically feasible to bring up to code.

Some question whether new midtown developments in Gainesville now under construction will actually address the housing needs of working-class people. One of those developments is the Atlanta Street project going up where a public housing complex once stood for 60 years. The public housing complex was demolished earlier this year to make way for a mixed development that will include affordable, market-rate and some public housing.  

“There may be a waiting list everywhere, but we found during our relocation process that if you get on the list it moves fairly quickly,” Brown said.

Brown chairs the “Adequate Affordable Housing” committee of the United Way One Hall United Against Poverty initiative. The committee meets the fourth Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m. at the Gainesville Housing Authority at 750 Pearl Nix Parkway.

United Way is collaborating with local churches, nonprofits and stakeholders from the public and private sector to address poverty strategically from multiple angles. Aside from housing, the initiative also tackles hunger, access to health and wellness, access to education for all ages, jobs and other root causes of poverty.