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Housing crisis: Shortage of affordable homes in northwest Florida

Housing crisis: Shortage of affordable homes in northwest Florida

Lucy Gardner likes her home squeaky clean.

"I need to put everything out the way until I mop my floor," Gardner said.

Gardner lives in Attucks Court near Cervantes and H Street. It is part of public housing through the Area Housing Commission. Gardner said she was on a waiting list for four years before getting the apartment.

"If it wasn't for housing assistance I would probably still be like, homeless from pillow to pole," Gardner said.

The 59-year-old lived house-to-house with her children until public housing became available. Dr. Abe Singh, executive director of the Area Housing Commission, said unfortunately, her story is not unique.

"Housing is a big problem in Escambia County, it's an even bigger problem in the city of Pensacola?" Singh said.

Channel 3 checked and uncovered a housing crisis across northwest Florida. In Escambia County, there are roughly 800 low-income housing units between public housing and the Local Housing Authority. Singh said that all are currently occupied and the wait list for a home is roughly 4,000.

"The waiting would be anywhere from two, to three, four years. In the meantime, what do these families and individuals do," Singh asked.

He said these are families that make little to no income, so options are very limited. The problem stretches past Escambia County lines.

Milton Housing Authority reports that their wait list is three years long for public housing. There are 39 units and roughly 200 families on the list. The Crestview Housing Authority has 273 public housing units and 208 on the waiting list.

However, affordable housing in general is hard to come by. In Escambia County one in two rental households are considered cost burden. That means they spend a third or more of their income on rent.

"I think the bottom line to address the lack of housing, is employment," Singh said.

That is why he believes that the fix is not necessarily more housing.

Gardner agrees it was important for her getting back into the workforce.

"It's a start for everybody," Gardner said. "It was a start for me and I needed another start."

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