Not in my neighborhood.
It is the common refrain when new construction comes to Navarre. The idea that this or that might be built near my castle is an insult. We have heard it discussed before with officials on everything from signage for apartments, a wildlife refuge to private schools.
But the cry was loudest when the building on the docket was for low income housing right here in Navarre.
When we run an article outlining the struggles of our homeless youth or content on the lack of resources for financially struggling citizens, we get an outcry from the public. People show up to the office asking how they can help. They hold public meetings. They take to Facebook with protests. We are proud when the community comes together in the face of hunger, homelessness and other great causes.
The average rent in this community is approximately $1,200 a month. In Santa Rosa County, the average per hour wage is $16.18 according to the county Department of Economic Development. That would amount to about $2,590 a month. That sounds pretty good, right?
The general rule of thumb recognized by most financial professionals is that your housing costs should not exceed 30 percent of income. Quick math shows that 30 percent of the average monthly income for this county is only $777.
But it gets worse. The lowest apartment rent available is for $869 a month for a one bedroom at the Reserves Apartments. The market is not friendly in Navarre, not even to the average citizen much less someone struggling to eat.
In November, a potential site for low income housing was proposed for Navarre. It was met with raucous backlash from roughly 50 citizens crying “not in my neighborhood.”
The usual arguments: “It will increase traffic. It will decrease our property values.” The supposition is that allowing low income housing or even housing that accepts federal housing vouchers will increase crime.
Citizens questioned the need for such facilities. They accused the project of aiming to create “pockets of poverty in South Santa Rosa County.” This argument hinges on an assumption that “pockets of poverty” do not already exist in the Navarre area, and that is wishful thinking.
According to county statistics, more than 20,000 people are living below the poverty line in this county. There are more than 15,000 living on less than $15,000 a year. That is less than minimum wage. Of the 707 homeless students in Santa Rosa County, 129 called Navarre home as of Oct. 31. These numbers have likely gone up.
For these families, home is a friend’s couch, a car, a bridge, a homeless shelter or even the woods. There is no shelter for these families. There is not even a hotel willing to step up and accept these families on a waiver funded by the school district.
If you are opposed to the building of low income housing in your area, then we ask you: where? Where do these people go? Where do you expect them to lay their head at night if they can’t afford to live on a full-time income?
If not in your neighborhood, then where? Poverty is here whether you chose to see it or not. Do you want to be part of the problem or part of the solution?