A plan for fighting the housing crisis in Fort Myers is so new it doesn’t even have a name yet. The housing project would allow the city to turn vacant lots into affordable housing all over the city.
Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson called the program a win-win-win. It’s a win for the person who buys the home. It’s a win for the city because they get another property on the tax rolls, and it’s a win for the neighborhoods because those empty lots will look so much better.
What makes a house a home are the people in it, but first, you must be able to buy the house.
“It’s, it’s a challenge. It’s a huge challenge. And it’s only gotten worse over the last couple of years,” said Steve Belden, director of community development.
If you do a quick Zillow search, you won’t find much under $400,000 in Fort Myers.
The city is looking at lots that are already vacant, that the city already owns, and they would be able to build a house for around $200,000 to $250,000 and sell it at cost, not making a profit on it.
“That helps the affordability of those homes. Then we take those funds, and we do it again. And that’s the whole idea,” said Belden.
The dots on the map above mark where the future homes could be. Right now, the city is looking at less than a dozen locations, but as time goes on, there could be more.
“I have a list of potential properties that we’re looking to purchase, and that can be up to 40 or 50,” Belden said.
Before that happens, Beldon hopes this idea builds momentum. “We’ll really start to see things start to take off now and get those last put out there for bid for contractors.”
Then he can focus on one of the most challenging parts of the program. Because the city doesn’t want to be a landlord, they want to build the houses and sell them, but they also want to make sure it’s the right people in the houses to make it a home.
“We want to make sure that whoever we select to purchase that home from us that you know, they’re qualified, they’re in a good position to be able to own that home, to be able to maintain that home in the future in the long term. So it’s so successful for the city, and it’s successful for the buyer as well,” said Belden.
The city also has programs to teach people what it’s like to own a home and the responsibilities that come with it.
Belden has been calling it the new housing program, the infill program, because the houses literally fill in the empty lots. He’s hoping the official name will be more creative.