Post Cape Coral Workforce Housing Town Hall: Reaction

As mentioned, I attended last nights Cape Coral Workforce Housing Town Hall event at the Big Blue Brewery, hosted by the News Press, and MC'd by journalist and personal friend of mine, Patricia Bournes.  What a doozy, and totally not what I expected.  Below are my most compelling takeaways.  I refuse to list some names because I don't want to embarrass them.  The featured picture in this image is of yours truly.  I had an opportunity to speak about how my ideas were a complete 180 on what was being discussed.

  • There were 2 builders pitching a "tiny homes" concept who struggled to explain a strong or convincing enough story as to why they would work.  Some statements I remember:  "People just have to get used to living in small houses!"  "I hate the word tiny.  They are 490 square feet, not 200 square feet."  "They have lower electric bills than standard sized homes."
    • Ok, I'm one who likes people watching to see the hilarity that occassionally follows, but this was freakin hilarious.  So, you're telling me that a 490 square foot house has a lower electric bill than a 1,200 square foot house?  Gosh, I hope he didn't spend his college education money on learning that.  I would have never knew.
  • There was a woman realtor there representing Century 21 to explain the need for tiny houses.  Some of her ideas just baffled me.  Here are some statements from her:
    • "There are no affordable homes in the Cape.  In fact, just yesterday I had an FHA closing for a single mom with kids on a $50,000 salary.  She didn't have money for the down payment so I was able to work magic on numbers and get her down payment handled on a $200,000 house.  She loved it since her mortgage is $1,300, very affordable."
      • I swear that is about verbatum what she said.  Where do I start?  So, the last 10 years taught you nothing.  You are advocating down payment assistance to someone who can't afford a down payment?  And somehow an underwriter approved it?  Awesome.
      • I question if this really happened.  First of all, her total monthly payment using today's FHA interest rates at $200,000 purchase price is $1,013 per month.  Plus $165 for mortgage insurance.  Plus $200 for taxes.  Plus $100 for insurance.  That's $1,478 x 12 = $17,738.  This is 36% debt to income ratio.  FHA caps back-end debt to income ratios at 43% on purchases, so if this single mom has at least $200 more per month in debt, she will exceed her ratio.  For her to get this deal, the buyer basically has to be debt free and credit worthy.
        • If this transaction even happened, it's a disaster in the works.  She's a medical emergency or broken down car away from not being able to afford her mortgage payment.
      • This realtor came off as very unsophisticated, uneducated on the actual workforce housing crisis, and really didn't know the difference between workforce and affordable housing.
      • She made a strong statement that tiny homes won't affect a neighbors property values.  Yes it can.  In the commercial world it's called external obsolescence, and it can certainly be taken into account on residential appraisals.
    • She said the idea of tiny homes is great for chasing the American dream!  Buy a tiny house, build equity, and sell for a profit so you can buy your dream home!  My reaction to that is that the tiny home concept won't build much equity in the first place.  At least not until income levels increase in Cape Coral significantly.  Second, if you are looking for a sustainable workforce housing ideas, you just turned it into a one-generational solution.

Overall, the entire event was very disheartening and I was really looking forward to it to hear some good ideas.  It was disheartening because there were supposed to be 4 experts on the panel.  Mr. Szerlag and Mrs. Yearsley are great and are genuinely seeking expert ideas on how to fix this.  The problem tonight was nobody had much knowledge on the deep issues of attainable housing.  Mr. Szerlag and Mrs. Yearsley recognize there is an issue, but they have been presented with unsustainable and illogical ideas.  We'll see if they are interested in discussing the same proposal I made to the School District.

The workforce housing crisis is dead serious in many markets across the country and in an area like Cape Coral and Fort Myers where jobs are plentiful and the inbound migration is record breaking, we do need a long-term solution.  There were no logical solutions last night.  The realtor and builder representatives the News Press included, in my opinion, were not anything close to being experts in workforce housing.

Cape Coral made ZERO progress last night in addressing workforce housing.  The brainstorming continues...

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