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Palm Beach County leaders tackle solutions to housing crisis as problem worsens

Critical issue impacting homeowners, renters, businesses
Posted at 12:50 PM, May 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-05 15:10:36-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The future of housing is a topic that is concerning many families in South Florida.

Residents are asking themselves if they will be able to afford to continue living here.

It also has the attention of the business community and leaders in Palm Beach County, prompting an economic summit Thursday to address the trends, challenges and possible solutions to the housing crisis.

Small and large businesses, nonprofits and local leaders were up early Thursday morning at Breakers West Country Club near West Palm Beach to tackle the crisis head-on.

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Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker
Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker offers some of the solutions that leaders need to implement in an effort to alleviate housing problems.

From a housing shortage to rising rents and insurance premiums, county leaders said it's been a challenge for years. Now that it's a dire situation, their focus is on finding solutions.

Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker said to address the shortage of affordable and workforce housing, the county needs to add a variety of housing types like homes and apartments with mixed-income.

"We're going to have to get used to not having very singular developments right next door to us," Baker said.

Leaders at the event said we need to be more efficient with land still available as more people continue to flock to South Florida.

"Our urban corridors ... and transit-oriented developments, they'll need to be more density there as we become a more urbanized county with mass transit," Jack Weir, the chairman of the Housing Leadership Council of Palm Beach County said.

Jack Weir, chairman of Housing Leadership Council of Palm Beach County, May 5, 2022
Jack Weir says mass transit will be key to South Florida as the area's population grows.

Home insurance rates continue to skyrocket, creating another challenge. Experts say increases will likely be 20-40% in the next year.

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"One of the main reasons for that is the cost of homes," said Ann-Marie Batten, owner and agency principal of Batten Insurance Services. "We all know how much our properties have gone up. ... Construction costs are up about 20% as well."

The housing crisis is not only impacting homeowners and tenants but also businesses.

"We hear every day about our local businesses that are having difficulty attracting new workers to the area because it's hard to find homes. Many people lose candidates," Pam Tahan, the CEO of Wellington Regional Medical Center said.

Pam Tahan, Wellington Medical Center CEO discusses housing crisis, May 5, 2022
Pam Tahan explains how unaffordable housing is impacting the recruitment of workers from other markets.

A main solution discussed at the economic breakfast is finding ways to increase supply to overcome the housing shortfall along with smart growth strategies.

"Right now, every decision we make on housing when it comes to affordable and workforce housing are going to be tough decisions to make," Baker said.

Another economic summit will be held next month, addressing housing and transportation issues to keep the conversation going.


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