Collier County affordable housing crisis gets worse following Hurricane Ian

Published: November 29, 2022 4:17 PM EST
Updated: November 29, 2022 6:13 PM EST

The cost of a home in Florida has been growing for a while, and since Hurricane Ian, prices seem even higher.

Collier County is feeling some of the worst of it. The worry is if workers can’t afford to live in the county, how can they work there?

Joe Trachtenberg, the chair of the Collier County Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, is familiar with the problem and is open to ideas to help.

Hurricane Ian left many homes in Collier County in shamble, Trachtenberg knows first hand. WINK News had to speak with him on zoom because his home was severely damaged, forcing him to head to New York temporarily.

Trachtenberg is one of the lucky ones. A lot of people have nowhere to go.

“In the last couple of years, the rental costs of apartments have gone beyond what average people can afford to spend. The hurricane has obviously exacerbated the problem, so many of our people in Collier County were living in Lee County, in Fort Myers, and they were so badly slammed by the hurricane that their homes were destroyed.”

It makes the situation in Collier County more urgent than ever.

Florida State Senator Kathleen Passidomo plans to tackle it this upcoming legislative session.

“My number one initiative is to tackle the problem of lack of workforce housing, and we have some creative ideas to address that,” said Passidomo.

She hasn’t said what those ideas will be yet, but Trachtenberg is encouraged.

“I am just so anxious to hear what those ideas are. And so many people need for some changes to be made,” Trachtenberg said.

Steve Brooder is also excited to see action taken. He’s the CEO of Saint Matthew’s House. Their shelter has seen a surge of first-time homeless people since the hurricane.

“We’re at crisis. We’ve been at [a] crisis for a while, and we see some solutions down the road, but they just aren’t coming fast enough, and of course, the hurricane just exasperated the problem,” said Brooder.

Senator Passidomo’s mission is to help bring back affordable workforce housing, but it won’t be easy.

For the next 30 days, a hotel is home for Yovany Regueire Sosa and his family. A gift from a good Samaritan.

They’re grateful to have anywhere to live after escaping the hurricane.

“Around 2 o’clock, we fell asleep because there wasn’t any electricity. By the time we wake up, the water was at our knees inside the mobile home,” said Sosa.

The family of five walked a mile and a half in floodwater. Now, Sosa is working 12-hour days delivering packages for amazon.

He is saving money and hoping to find somewhere to live, but it might not be enough.

“Pretty much the rent in Naples goes from $2,000 to $3,000 right now, and it’s kind of hard to afford with the places right now. We’ve only got one month to find something, and hopefully, we find something,” Sosa said.

Passidomo wants to help families like the Sosas.

“Well, you know, it’s unfortunate that my number one issue before the hurricane was workforce housing and the lack of affordable, safe workforce housing, in our state,” said Passidomo.

After Ian, the housing crisis is even more dire. Passidomo is promising to redouble those efforts in the upcoming legislative session.

“This summer we’ve been working on it throughout the summer with the incoming speaker and the governor and the governor’s office,” Passidomo said.

It’s good news for Brooder. The St. Matthew’s House Campbell Lodge shelter has seen a surge since the hurricane.

“I’m hoping that there’s some major initiatives that come from the state with funding that can be applied in some of these programs that we are working on with developers and partners in the area to push these projects forward,” said Brooder.

The legislative session begins January 11, and housing advocates in Collier County will be watching closely.