Teaching residents how to do finances and renovating older homes were part of about 100 ideas on how to fix housing issues that Gainesville residents brainstormed Wednesday.
About 120 residents gathered in the Thelma A. Bolton Center to brainstorm housing solutions. This was the first workshop in a series intended to find a solution. When the gnvRISE proposal failed in November, which was the city’s proposal for affordable housing, the City Commission created the workshop series as a solution.
Attendees first created housing self-portraits to describe their living situations and to show the city who was in the room and what their priorities are, said Anne Wolf, the workshop host and city’s citizen engagement program manager.
“We’re reaching out to folks who are maybe not at the table who people in the room might know about,” Wolf said.
Participants then split into eight groups and worked to offer housing solutions. Their ideas included building strong relationships between renters and landlords, offering steps to owning a home and addressing the negative stigma around affordable housing.
The ideas will be compiled together to identify patterns, Wolf said. The city will use them to develop a permanent solution.
One goal was to learn who did not attend because those were the people who needed to be heard the most, Wolf said.
“It’s who we reach. It’s what content we’re talking about to collectively and collaboratively increase our knowledge about all these types of issues, and it’s how we reach out to them,” Wolf said.
While Commissioner David Arreola was pleased with the diversity of attending residents, he wants to hear from community leaders who know the stories of those who need affordable housing.
“There’s a lot of agreement that there needs to be a local solution,” Arreola said.
During the workshop, Anne Ray, the Florida Housing Data Clearinghouse manager at the UF Shimberg Center for Housing Studies, gave depth to the housing issue by presenting related data and clarifying the housing crisis.
She said the housing crisis stems from people not being able to afford housing.
“I think it’s important to realize that while job and economic development are important, they’re not sufficient to solve affordable housing problems,” Ray said during the meeting.
About 15,000 households in the city are cost-burdened, which means more than 30 percent of their income goes to housing, Ray said. The wage to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Alachua County is $17.19. The median wage is $15.95.
Former Gainesville Mayor Gary Gordon is hopeful for positive outcomes from the workshop.
“It’s only the beginning, but at least there were a lot of good ideas expressed tonight,” he said.