Duwayne Sipper/Guest Column to the Chronicle
On Oct. 5, many of our county leaders came together to set a vision for Citrus County for the next 10 years. Many engaged citizens and prominent leaders worked in groups to discuss the future of our community at the Citrus 2030 Vision Check.
I know from working on The Path Rescue Mission how important a written plan is.
One reason is, as the years go by, there are many other ideas which come along that simply do not fit in “the plan.” It is good to check the plan, and stick to it to get it accomplished.
Secondly, if you are going to work with other people (and most projects are this way), they need to know what the plan is. Each person coming and going out of the organization needs to know what the goal is.
A typical trend that I have observed is that people want affordable housing. Several of our 10 Citrus 2030 think tank groups came up with affordable housing as a local issue to address. We are proposing housing our workforce can afford.
In the last year, we have added approximately 2,000 retirees to our county (if we count two people for each of the houses built here). This is conservative, and it is most likely more. If we need one service person for every two retirees, and we need a unit for every two service people, we need at least 500 new housing units our workforce can afford.
If the average wage is $10 per hour, and people can afford to budget one third their net income for rent, they can afford about $475 a month in rent. Do you know of any of these units for rent in Citrus County?
To me, it is crystal clear — something has to give. If we keep adding retirees to our county and they want more restaurants and stores, we must supply the housing where the people who service these businesses’ can live. I cannot see our county growing in the service sector or the business sector without supplying the right type of housing, or different types of housing.
I do think it will take all of us working together. County commissioners, planning departments, for-profit builders and nonprofits will all have to work together if we are going to solve the problem.
I also propose we throw away any boxes we are thinking in. How do we use existing buildings, tiny homes, mobile homes or tiny apartments to solve our housing dilemma?
There are other people in the country, and the world, who are solving this problem. The addition of more affordable housing is also one way of retaining the younger population.
My friends, this one is not going away, but we need a plan and the rest of us need to know what the plan is.
DuWayne Sipper is the executive director of The Path of Citrus County, a faith-based homeless shelter. Contact him at 527-6500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.