BELLE GLADE, Fla. - With about 80 percent of the houses in the Glades area suffering from deterioration it's not hard to find substandard living conditions, but it is hard to find a solution to the problem.
At the Glades Summit, leaders from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the United States Department of Agriculture along with local leaders met at Palm Beach State College to discuss the current housing issues.
The meeting lasted all day at the Belle Glade campus, with different breakout seminars, including a seminar talking about the future of housing in the Glades, which was standing room only.
"You got an average income out here of about $12,000/yr with the unemployment rate of over 41 percent," Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson said. "Bring (housing) to standard. Yes, we want to do that, but we must be mindful too."
Wilson urged that to the room of leaders Tuesday because he said the living conditions are dire for his citizens and the houses may be all some can afford at this time.
A $2 million planning grant has just been awarded to the county to find a way to improve the living conditions for Glades area residents in Palm Beach County.
"Until we grow the population and the economy for people who live in the Glades, I'm not necessarily sure we need more capacity of housing," Regional HUD Field Office Director Armando Fana said. "But we certainly need better quality."
Fana said that starts with bringing current troubled houses up to code.
"A lot of people will see dilapidated housing and say that's HUD housing or public housing," Fana said. "99 percent of the time, it's not. It's privately where the codes need to be enforced."
Enforcing the regulations though aren't easy because Fana and Wilson both fear it could force people to be homeless.
"Who are the (private owners) going to enforce it on," Mayor Wilson asked. "They're going to enforce it on the people who could not afford it from the beginning."
The biggest challenge summit leaders face is finding replacement homes that are affordable if people needed to force other people out of the substandard privately owned homes, Wilson said.
"People are not exposed to this because they want to," Wilson exclaimed. "They're exposed to this because they have no other choice. If you don't have jobs, how are you going to be able to pay for housing."
Wilson said the jobs problem must be fixed first before the housing issues are fixed.