South Florida residents say affordable housing, higher wages are critically needed

housing market
Posted at 4:19 PM, Apr 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-21 19:14:57-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican-controlled legislature have tackled abortion, critical race theory, and school books, all while many of the people they represent worry about paying their bills.

"I keep coming up short man. It’s demoralizing. It hurts," said Jacob Mack of West Palm Beach.

Mack is a father of two and he's employed with a steady job. But what he doesn't have is a place to call home.

"I’m working 40 hours a week, making $12 an hour. I'm talking to real estate agents and they’re telling me I need to make $3,500 a month to even talk to them," Mack said.

After speaking with a number of Floridians from all walks of life in downtown West Palm Beach, affordable housing and a living wage are the common threads that connect them all.

"The focus needs to be on jobs. If rent are not going to come down, we need to raise wages," said electrician Charles Moran.

"I think the government just doesn’t seem to care. They aren’t part of the everyday community and I don’t think they understand what’s important to local people," said resident Mary Cassidy.

"It’s very difficult to find a place that you can afford, especially if you’re working at the minimum wage that we have these days. Minimum wage isn’t going to be able to afford you a home in West Palm Beach," resident Cheryl Lueke said.

"There needs to be something done to help people with more affordable housing, especially the disabled vets that live up and down this street," said attorney Amy Borgersen.

In West Palm Beach, lack of affordable everything is real. Census data shows a median household income at $54,603 is lower than the rest of Florida, while an individual’s income at $34,000 is slightly higher, though still not enough in a world of rising rents and $4 a gallon gas.

According to researchers, the housing crisis and a livable wage aren't just hurting folks in Palm Beach County, but statewide.

"It's affecting Democrats and Republicans, male, female, race across everything. It doesn't skew either way," said Andre Hopkins, the assistant director for the Public Opinion Research Lab at the Univeristy of North Florida.

Their most recent poll conducted in February found the most important problem facing Floridians is the economy jobs and unemployment, not Disney and gay and transgender rights, not book banning, and not limiting language in classrooms.

"These are issues that our governor is going to have to address. And these are things you know, that are on people's minds and politicians, they're going to have to listen to," Hopkins said.

But despite the challenges and lack of attention by Tallahassee to their needs, some said they’re still hopeful and will continue to call Florida home

"I’m not giving up. I'm not leaving. This is home, my home, Mack said.

"Being close to family is what keeps me going. With having so many extended family in the South Florida area, I don't think id ever be able to leave," Lueke said.