NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — A new grant should help leaders in Pasco County do more to address homelessness and housing insecurity.
Recently, the county was awarded a roughly $4.4. million HOME-ARP grant, which is funding made possible by the American Rescue Plan and administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Marcy Esbjerg, Pasco County’s Director of Community Development, said the grant should help the county which is experiencing a shortage of affordable housing and rising rents. Both factors risk contributing to the county’s existing homeless population as more and more families are pushed to the financial brink.
According to data available on the Florida Department of Health website, Pasco County counted 857 homeless individuals in 2021. The number is drastically lower than the time period immediately following the Great Recession. However, the count has held steady over the past several years.
“We’d like to get to a point where homelessness is rare and brief,” said Esbjerg. “We will be prioritizing those that are experiencing homelessness because that’s our greatest need right now.”
Esbjerg said, through Friday, the county is collecting proposals from prospective nonprofits and developers on how to spend the grant money.
It could be spent on building new housing for the homeless, but she said using it to buy and renovate existing homes or apartments — as the county has done in the past — would be faster.
“If we could do something like that, we could possibly have units online in a year or a year and a half,” Esbjerg said. “We are actually looking for projects that will come in at one-bedrooms and efficiencies specifically for that population.”
However, the multi-million dollar grant is not a cure-all, given the great need and rise in construction costs.
“Certainly, a single-family home — affordable, 1,000 square feet — is over $300,000, so when you look at how much something is costing, you know, we’re not going to get as many units out of the $4.4 million as we would hope, but anything that’s directed towards housing — and specifically housing our most vulnerable, which are our homeless — will make a difference,” she said.
You can send Pasco County your feedback on how it should use the grant by contacting Jeff McKittrick at (727) 834-3447 or email@example.com.