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Letter: True affordable, decent housing is out of reach for many in Gainesville

For the past couple of years, Gainesville citizens have watched already limited affordable housing options dwindle in the midtown area and beyond. With no rent control parameters, landlords in the area are free to set rent at any cost they see fit, often raising rent over $50 each lease without even the promise of non-emergency renovations being made.

This issue is in conjunction with that of the difficult leasing process to begin with. Many landlords require the renters’ income to be at least two times the rent, with the equivalent of two monthly rent payments serving as a down payment, on top of any pet fees (usually no less than $200 per pet, with a limited list of accepted pets), additional down payments to cover future damage costs and an application fee.

One must meet all of these requirements only after meeting the requirement of being the most desirable renter for the space, difficult for those who may have a felony on their record, or a bad roommate experience in their past.

All of these requirements make it incredibly difficult to become a renter in a growing town. Perhaps even more difficult is trying to find anywhere within the Gainesville city limits to rent for less than $750 for a one bedroom, less than $900 for a two bedroom and less than $1,200 for a three bedroom. This is difficult to swing on two college kids budgets combined with two full-time workers (like we have in my household), and even more difficult for families and single parents.

Combine the atrocious rental scene with the strict requirements of receiving government-subsidized housing vouchers and the constant waiting list and wiping of said waiting list every so often. Add the lack of government-subsidized housing (the city had a cap of 500 in 2015, around 100 of which were demolished with the Atlanta Street housing demolition) and those who are in need of housing the most are left in the dark.

Once faced with the prospect of homelessness, these families and individuals are still left without many options. Gainesville has a serious lack of homeless shelters, especially for those without children, or couples looking to stay under the same roof. Furthermore, the shelters and assistance that is in the area are, understandably, overwhelmed.

With nowhere to turn, these individuals are often forced to uproot their lives and more to more rural areas in order to chase cheaper rents. This means they must find a way to commute if they don’t have a car or reliable transportation, change school districts if they have children and perhaps even find a new job. Worse yet, others must turn to the streets to make a home for themselves.

There is an ever-growing issue of homelessness here in Gainesville, and a major contributor is the lack of affordable housing and the insistence of the city officials to gentrify Gainesville. Surely there are solutions we can find that do not require clearing out families in order to better our town.

Elizabeth Casper

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