TAMPA — The fallout from the pandemic and the impact on affordable housing in the Tampa Bay Area continues to be one of the most critical issues our community faces.
That's why leaders are working on various public and private partnerships to fill a massive void for families in need of housing they can afford.
On Wednesday, the city hosted a two-hour workshop for contractors to help families in need and make business contacts in the process.
"We target those families who are in low income who are on a fixed income who otherwise wouldn't be able to repair their homes. So, this program helps us bring contractors in to do the work for us," Kayon Henderson told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska. "We've now maintained someone in a home that they could possibly be evicted from, or now it's made uninhabitable, so we've made those repairs fixed the house, and they are able to remain where they are."
Henderson is the City of Tampa Housing and Community Development Division Manager. It's a position she was promoted to on Dec. 1 after working for nine years in the department. Henderson says the program has been around for more than a decade.
"We on average spend about $3 million on this program to help families; within the last year, we helped about 76 families. During the pandemic, it really did put a pause," Henderson said. "We averaged 100 homeowners before the pandemic.
Each qualified homeowner gets a maximum of $50,000 through the Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation Program. The money goes towards essential repairs to bring the home to housing quality standards.
"Sometimes the $50,000 sounds like a whole lot, but when we go into the home, if there's a roof needed and we look at the HVAC, those costs can really add up," Henderson said.
Currently, there are thousands of people on the waitlist for affordable housing. It can take years for a spot to open up. The more people the city can keep in their homes, the better it is for the entire community.
"We are at a place where we don't have enough inventory for affordable housing. So, how do we preserve what we have and so if we know these families are in need and the house they are in is affordable, then helping to fix that home maintains affordability for that family," Henderson said.
"I want to make an impact in the community and help people," Ainsworth Robinson said.
Robinson is a drafter and carpenter currently undergoing an apprenticeship to become a licensed contractor. He attended the program to find out what he could do to assist homeowners in need.
"This is right up my alley, and I'm excited about it," Robinson said. "It's always been a struggle, but I made it through it," Robinson said. "I want to help people out that were in similar situations as myself. You know I would love to help the community since I'm from the Tampa Bay Area."
As the affordable housing crisis continues, the city plans to expand the program.
"Right now, it really is at only at 80% or below the area median income, so we are looking to really expand the program, realizing that with inflation and the pandemic, there are more families that have a need," Henderson said.