Prioritize people over profit

‘As a lifelong resident of Pinellas County, it is heartbreaking to witness the housing crisis that plagues our beloved community,’ said Corey Givens Jr.

Dear Editor:

It’s not a new issue, but the nation’s lack of affordable housing has worsened. Since the beginning of COVID-19, housing costs have been rising dramatically. Prices have increased two years in a row, reaching their most recent peak in the first quarter of this year.

Rent is challenging to afford in the current real estate market. That holds true even more so for a city like St. Petersburg. Several options for dealing with these issues include increasing the density restrictions, extending Section-8 housing, streamlining the mortgage application process, and many more.

The difficulty, however, is that these issues aren’t caused by unintentional zoning errors or the waste of public funds; instead, they are caused by the same individuals who stand to profit from rising rents: developers and the politicians they support.

The difficulty in finding affordable or attainable housing is not by chance. Building upscale condos downtown is far more profitable for real estate developers.

The last thing these companies want to do is build affordable housing. They attend meetings and participate in backroom negotiations to stop that from occurring, even if the neighborhood is in. The only way to prevent them from acting this way is to actively participate in local government affairs and pressure them to change.

As a lifelong resident of Pinellas County, it is heartbreaking to witness the housing crisis that plagues our beloved community. Families are forced to choose between paying for housing, healthcare and food due to the acute scarcity of affordable housing options.

I can speak from personal experience when I say that no one should have to lead a life like this since I spent most of my youth in comparable conditions. Now is the moment to act to confront this catastrophe.

Affordable housing has several advantages. When families have access to secure and inexpensive housing, they can concentrate on other crucial areas of their lives, such as healthcare and education. Additionally, they are more inclined to participate in and support the development of their local community.

Affordable housing may also aid in lowering poverty, homelessness, and crime in our neighborhoods. We can assist families in getting back on their feet and ending the cycle of poverty by offering stable housing choices.

This could benefit our entire community and contribute to improving everyone’s quality of life. However, this view might not be shared by developers who are simply concerned with maximizing their income and tax savings.

The housing crisis is an ongoing issue. There are no band-aide solutions or quick fixes. Due to the high cost of land, labor, and construction, it is difficult for developers to make projects financially viable in this area. It is difficult for companies that are unable to hire or retain staff because of housing concerns.

Families that must deal with long commutes and time spent away from their loved ones, friends, and neighbors also find it difficult. The conversation must go on, but it must be a regional dialogue. This is not a problem that any one elected official or organization can resolve on their own. We must unite and prioritize people over politics.

— Corey Givens Jr.

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