Jacksonville, Florida, may soon have a homelessness problem

Discussion in 'Economics & Trade' started by kazenatsu, Aug 10, 2023.

  1. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Past Donor

    May 15, 2017
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    Jacksonville, Florida, has been rapidly growing in population and development.

    Despite growing by about 17% over the last decade, the three counties in Jacksonville's homeless service area reduced their count of people on the streets and in shelters by half.
    Meaning that, so far, Jacksonville has been able to grow while at the same time reducing its homeless population.
    Developers and nonprofits in Jacksonville have been keeping up with demand building almost enough affordable houses and apartments to keep even most low-income residents from becoming homeless.

    But there is reason to believe that now, at this point, further growth could be accompanied by a rapid increase in the homeless population. Some are worried the problem in Jacksonville could end up being comparable to Los Angeles, in California, 2,400 miles away.

    Rent in the metro area spiked by more than 20% between April 2021 and April 2022, according to a Redfin survey. Apartment vacancy rates, which were among the country's highest at the onset of the boom, are shrinking. The waiting list for housing assistance has grown to about 120,000 from about 20,000 before the pandemic,

    There are two main factors.
    Jacksonville is running out of land to build new houses, and that is going to be expected to soon push the price of housing up.

    "We can't be L.A.," said Cindy Funkhouser, president and CEO of the Sulzbacher Center, the city's largest homeless services provider. "We're kind of, you know, at a fork in the road here, and either we start building more affordable housing, and we cut this off, or we could go either way."

    The public tends to blame L.A.'s high levels of homelessness on poverty, drug use, crime or even Southern California's warm weather. But poverty, drug use and crime are challenges for many American cities with far fewer homeless people than L.A.
    But Jacksonville does not have L.A. levels of street homelessness mostly because it has more available housing.

    Jacksonville, with a landscape dominated by the St. Johns River and a series of interstate highways that divide neighborhoods by race and economic class, is the biggest city by land area in the U.S. (not counting Alaska). Abundant land, cheap housing and proactive local safety net programs have helped the city reduce its homeless population over the last decade.

    Alex Sifakis is a property developer. He and his business partner buy up lots in old neighborhoods, often for $30,000 or $40,000, build houses or townhomes for an average of $170,000 and then rent them out to working-class families for $1,300 to $1,800 a month.
    This would be considered extremely cheap and affordable compared to the area around Los Angeles.
    His company manages 5,600 homes and townhouses like this, almost all owned by investors. It's a business model that does not really exist in Los Angeles because undeveloped land is much more scarce and construction costs are higher.

    Housing experts say cities benefit from having more affordable homes on the market, even if those houses and apartments are not directly rented to homeless people. Housing is often compared to a game of musical chairs; if there is more availability of housing, everyone can move up.
    (see thread: Millennial homeowners renovate instead of moving up )

    In a Florida boom town, builders and homeless services providers fret: 'We can't be L.A.', Noah Bierman, LA Times, August 20, 2023

    article available free here for a limited time: In a Florida boom town, builders and homeless services providers fret: 'We can't be L.A.' (msn.com)

    The other small problem I think is that as cities age, their homelessness issues gradually increase. The people who first moved there had money, but after a while those people have children, and among that next generation is inevitably going to be a certain percentage who have problems contributing to poverty and homelessness. Another issue is that as middle class people with money enter a city, it eventually draws in more low income people from surrounding areas, to work in the lower tier service jobs there, and eventually those lower income people have children who become adults.
    But I think land availability and housing space to build on is a big factor.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2023

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