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Palm Beach County commissioners debate affordable housing plan

Housing Leadership Council supports $200M housing bond
Posted at 2:49 PM, Apr 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-12 19:08:29-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Conflicted about taxing the very people struggling to live in paradise, Palm Beach County commissioners are still undecided about a $200 million bond for affordable housing.  

At Tuesday’s commission meeting, county staff presented a breakdown of funds the county plans to use for affordable housing. There’s more than $40 million sitting in the pot right now.  

"If we can't spend the $40 million that we have, and we are asking our taxpayers to spend $200 million to add to the $40 million pot,” said Commissioner Melissa McKinlay about wanting to have a clear plan for dollars currently available.

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, debates bond plan, April 12, 2022 meeting
Commissioner Melissa McKinlay shares her thoughts on the $200 million housing bond plan.

The board of county commissioners is exploring a $200 million bond over 10 years that would add 20,000 units of affordable housing throughout the county. However, the plan would cost taxpayers.  

"I'm still really conflicted on the need to put additional tax burdens on our residents," said Palm Beach County Mayor Robert Weinroth.

Weinroth brought up the inflation rate, which is currently 8.5%. He admits he is in favor of affordable housing but not comfortable with asking taxpayers to foot that bill.  

Commissioner Dave Kerner reminded commissioners that this is a problem that started decades ago, which the commission has not addressed.  

Palm Beach County housing plan summary, slide from commission meeting on April 12, 2022

County residents who are seeking affordable housing either can't find it or it's not actually affordable for them.  

"I got a quote for $815 for a studio for affordable housing, and I still make below that," said Santos Martinez Jr., who is working part-time and on a waiting list for a kidney transplant. "If I make too much money, then they'll take away my benefits." 

Right now, he said he's paying $600 a month to rent a room.  

"Just a room, just a space," Martinez said. 

Moving out of the county to find affordable living is not an option for him.

Santos Martinez Jr., Palm Beach County renter
Santos Martinez Jr. is among the residents in Palm Beach County who are finding it harder to afford the cost of housing.

He said all his medical appointments are within the county, and he is months away from a potential transplant.

"I can't make too much, and I'm not making enough," Martinez said. 

The county wants to get cities on board to help and is developing a dashboard to get municipalities to input data on what current affordable housing is available.

Commissioners have asked staff to revisit what can be done immediately with the funds the county has available for housing right now before deciding to bring a bond to the voters this November.

They have a deadline of Aug. 5 to get the bond on the ballot.  

"I hope they realize the urgency that people in my position, not only financially but health-wise, that need the help," Martinez said.