Affordable housing needed in Okeechobee County

Posted 4/28/22

At their April 26 meeting, Okeechobee County Commissioners agreed to create Affordable Housing Committee ...

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Affordable housing needed in Okeechobee County

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OKEECHOBEE — At their April 26 meeting, Okeechobee County Commissioners agreed to create an Affordable Housing Committee to review the county’s housing strategies and incentivize the production of more affordable housing. The committee will be comprised of 8-11 members with various backgrounds related to affordable housing.

Commissioner David Hazellief was appointed to represent the Okeechobee County Commission on the committee.

“Right now we do not have workforce affordable housing in our community  -- zero,” said Commission Chair Terry Burroughs. “There is some that is starting to be created and we saw some in the city, but I think this is extremely important for us to guide that.”

County Administrator Deborah Manzo said on the staff level, the SHIP (State Housing Initiatves Partnership Program) coordinator will be involved in affordable housing work.

Hazellief said he would like to hear the other commissioners’ input on the issue.   

“I believe that we should take on the opportunity to see how we can help that along,” said Burroughs. He said the committee might focus on how to help developers obtain grants to build more affordable housing.

“It’s imperative that we do that,” Burroughs continued. “We’ve got school teachers. We’ve got people who work at the hospital. We’ve got police officers, firefighters … people are paying ridiculous amounts of money to rent places that in my estimation sometimes aren’t the best.”

“We need to be focused on getting money into the community for housing,” said Burroughs.

“There’s no houses out there under $200,000 today,” said Hazellief. He said housing prices are putting home ownership out of the reach of many people. He said the SHIP program can help some people with that.

Goodbread said there is some rental assistance currently available. 

“Last week in my Treasure Coast Community Action Meeting, we found some covid rental assistance had been increased from $3,000 to $5,000,” he explained. Our Village is helping people with applications.

Our Florida is another program provides up to 15 months rental assistance. Applications are available on ourflorida.com.

In other business, Manzo said South Florida Water Management District will lease the former “Boys School” Property from the state. She said SFWMD will enter into a agreement with the county for the portion of the property close to U.S. 441. “We would still like to get that property under ownership by the county instead of leasing,” she said.  The property was originally owned by Okeechobee County and was given to the state for use for the  juvenile facility.  The facility closed in 2021.

Burroughs said the county would like to turn part of that property into a commerce center. He said they will bring the issue to the Florida Cabinet.

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